An Evening with Ghost Light: Presented by Hog Days of Summer February 21, 2020 15:45

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Live & Listen and Druids Charity Club, the local non-profit responsible for Hog Days of Summer, are joining forces to bring nationally acclaimed rock group Ghost Light to Montgomery's Capri Theatre on Wednesday, March 25th. Click here to purchase tickets!
Back in the fall of 2016, we learned of another group of like-minded individuals who had a vision for a new, unique music festival in Montgomery. Since we launched Live & Listen in 2014, finding a way to bring the community together through music, while making a positive impact for those who need it most, has been a major focus. Upon further conversation, we knew that the guys behind Druids Charity Club were onto something special. 
Druids Charity Club has since established one of Montgomery's most highly anticipated annual events: Hog Days of Summer. "Hog Days" is a BBQ & music celebration raising money for Hogs For The Cause, a long-standing annual music and BBQ festival in New Orleans, LA which provides grants to families facing pediatric cancer. Going into it's 4th year, Hog Days aims to be an end of Summer celeration that brings Montgomerians together in a family-friendly atmosphere to enjoy great food and Americana music. Americana-style music incorporates elements of various American styles of music, including Rock & Roll, Country, Blues, Folk, and Bluegrass to form a roots oriented sound.
After three years, 'Hog Days' has quickly become one of Montgomery's favorite events. The event has seen it's attendance, partnerships, and fundraising grow significantly each year. The 2020 Hog Days of Summer will be held on August 22nd. Druids Charity Club will once again partner with several of the South's best BBQ curators to put on a festival experience in downtown Montgomery that will run from the early afternoon into the evening.

We could not be more pleased to partner with Druids Charity Club for an amazing night of live music at Montgomery's Capri Theatre on Wednesday, March 25th. One of the hottest up and coming acts in the country, Ghost Light, will make their first ever stop in the capitol city. Led by guitarist Tom Hamilton (of Joe Russo's Almost Dead), the band also featured famed pianist Holly Bowling, drummer Scotty Zwang (formerly of Dopapod), guitarist Raina Mullen (formerly of Tom Hamilton's American Babies), and bassist Dan Africano. They will be fresh off a major national tour with Greensky Bluegrass, which saw the band play in many of America's most prestigious venues.

Earlier this week, Ghost Light released HD, multi-cam footage from their recent performance at Thunderbird Music Hall in Pittsburgh, PA. Check out the complete footage below and make sure to RSVP to the official Facebook event for their upcoming show in Montgomery. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by clicking here.

We recently caught up with two of the founding members of Druids Charity Club, Inge Hill and John Sullivan, who gave us a little more insight on their overall vision for the non-profit efforts and Hog Days of Summer:

"We have diverse musical tastes, but it is our opinion that nothing pairs with BBQ quite like blues and authentic country music, and all of their respective blends and offshoots. With that basic idea in mind, we strive to bring in a first class, family-friendly bill which loosely spans ‘Americana’ and roots influences such as blues, country, folk, bluegrass, and rock & roll.

So much of the popular music we hear on the radio today can be traced back to southern backroads and porches; we feel fortunate to be playing our small part in keeping these musical traditions alive in our community. Community has always been an integral component in both BBQ and this style of music, and therefore, our event. Our focus on the family is why we think the train shed is the best venue around for a multi-generational celebration such as Hog Days. It warms our heart to see kids dancing up front to the same music that is moving their parents. A statue of Hank Williams stands guard outside our venue, so that is a high standard and a long shadow which we try to respect."

- Inge Hill: Druids Charity Club

"We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization made up exclusively of volunteers. We give all of the profits from this event to Hogs for the Cause, a charitable organization which provides financial grants to children with cancer. Often overlooked in the spectrum of cancer treatment is the financial strain placed on a family when their child is diagnosed. Parents are forced to miss work for various reasons, whether it be to sit with their child during treatments or care for them when they are struggling with the side effects of chemotherapy. Many parents lose significant wages or even their jobs in this process. They often get behind on their mortgage, struggle to pay for utilities, or simply cannot afford to drive to Birmingham for their treatments. Our efforts lessen this burden." 

John Sullivan: Druids Charity Club 

Drifter Merch Announces Inaugural Bert Griggs Memorial Jam February 14, 2020 10:36

Press Release via Drifter Merch

Drifter Fest: The Inaugural Bert Griggs Memorial Jam will be held on March 6th-8th in Charleston, SC. The music-filled weekend will celebrate the life of Drifter Merch founder Bert Griggs who died unexpectedly in December. Bert's designs made an impact on the jam band music scene offering innovative designs that reached far and wide. The festivities kick off on Friday night with a pre-jam from 8-11pm at Home Team BBQ’s downtown location featuring several sets of funk favorites from Shonuff band. Doors for the Drifter Fest: The Inaugural Bert Griggs Memorial Jam open at 8pm at the Charleston Pour House.

Inside the venue from 8:30pm-1am, patrons will enjoy a collaboration of Bert’s favorite tunes from many of his friends including Reid Stone and bands Gaslight Street, The Travelin’ Kine, Shonuff, Solid Country Gold and more. The weekend concludes on Sunday from 2pm-5pm at Reckoning in the Park featuring The Reckoning, an awesome Grateful Dead cover band, in the meadow at James Island County Park. Guests will enjoy a weekend of fun events combined with great company, stories and live music. 

Born and raised in Hartsville, Bert Griggs was surrounded by a huge family and lifelong friends as he grew up in the country riding tractors, four-wheelers and being mischievous. Bert later graduated from the College of Charleston with a B.S. in Business Administration. He remained in Charleston after college working in all aspects of the hospitality industry while working for Charlestowne Hotels. It wasn’t long before the mountains called his name and he headed to Jackson Hole to pursue his love of snowboarding. While there, Bert was the sales and marketing director of a hotel group that gave him the opportunity to travel to world-class ski resorts all over the country as an ambassador for Jackson Hole. He met his wife Lorrie while she was vacationing there from Charleston and discovered they both had a love of traveling to see live music and a plethora of mutual friends.

Following a whirlwind romance, they married on April Fools’ Day atop the mountain at Jackson Hole Ski Resort. Together they created Drifter Merch, an apparel company dedicated to their love of music. Soon after, they returned to Charleston where Bert’s passion for graphic design grew as did their business. Their company vended at many shows, festivals, events and handled custom orders for numerous businesses (Google, Vida-Flo, Moe's Original BBQ), bands (Dickey Betts Band, Dead 27s, Travelin' Kine), schools and events. The light of their lives, Harper Grace, was born about a year later. Bert was an amazing father, husband, son, brother, and friend. Bert had an innate ability to make everyone he met feel like they were the most important person in the room. He never met a stranger. In fact, he was everyone’s best friend. He had the sweetest soul and a tender heart that loved hard and loved deeply. Bert had a unique sense of humor with an infectious laugh and smile that could light up the darkest room. He is intensely missed.

For interviews, photos or additional information, please contact Lorrie Dixson Griggs of Eskimo Advertising at

Artwork by Corey Grantham of Carolina Printing

Artwork by Tripp Shealy: Tripp’s Prints

CBDB & Kendall Street Company Embark on National Tour February 12, 2020 15:29

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
It's already been a huge year for both CBDB & Kendall Street Company, and neither band shows any sign of slowing down anytime soon. Tuscaloosa natives CBDB just finished up a two-week tour with Spafford, which saw them play to capacity crowds at many of the most notable venues in the southeast. They have also confirmed major festival appearances such as The Peach Music Festival and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong's Domefest. Kendall Street Company, which hails from Charlottesville (VA), has recently confirmed a handful of impressive festival plays, such as SweetWater 420 FestivalLOCKN' Festival, and Some Kind of Jam 15. These are two of the hottest rising acts in the country, and what lies ahead should have all music fans fired up.
The two bands embark on a 20-date national tour next week. The festivities kick off on Wednesday, February 19th at Gasa Gasa in New Orleans (LA) and continue with stops in Texas, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. The tour commences with a huge finale at New York City's Gramercy Theatre on Saturday, March 21st
Live & Listen is proud to offer an exclusive ticket + merch giveaway for the upcoming tour, which includes two tickets to any show on this run, an official tour poster signed by members of both bands, and a t-shirt from both bands. Simply head over to our Facebook pageshare the post which includes this article, and tag a friend in the comments section to enter the contest. We will select a winner on Wednesday, February 19th at 10AM CST.
"This new year has brought an incredible new energy that we've been enjoying immensely in our shows. The tour with Spafford was a fantastic experience, and we are riding that wave into our longest national tour to date with another great band in Kendall Street Company. We can't wait to see what unfolds." - Cy Simonton of CBDB
"We're excited to see what 2020 has in store for us! Along with two (or perhaps three) new records on the horizon, our upcoming Winter Tour with CBDB will take us all across the country in true Woody Guthrie fashion. From Louisiana to Texas, Colorado to Wisconsin, Ohio to Boston, New York City and more. We can't wait to bring our music to new locations and audiences." - Jake Vanaman of Kendall Street Company
CBDB & Kendall Street Company Tour Dates
•2/19 New Orleans: Gasa Gasa
•2/20: Houston, TX: Last Concert Cafe
•2/21: Austin, TX: Mohawk
•2/22: Dallas, TX: Three Links
•2/27: Ft. Collins, CO: Avogadros Number
•2/28: Steamboat Springs, CO: Schmiggitys
•2/29: Denver, CO: Cervantes Masterpiece
•3/3: Milwaukee, WI: Linneman’s Riverwest Inn
•3/4 Madison, WI: High Noon Saloon
•3/5 Appleton, WI: The Bent Keg
•3/6 Chicago, IL: Beat Kitchen
•3/7 Grand Rapids, MI: Founders Brewing Company
•3/11 Columbus, OH: The Summit
•3/12 Cleveland, OH: Beachland Tavern
•3/13 Pittsburgh, PA: The Smiling Moose
•3/14 Richmond, VA: River City Roll
•3/18 Baltimore, MD: The 8x10
•3/19 Philadelphia, PA: Boot & Saddle
•3/20 Boston, MA: Middle East
•3/21 New York, NY: Gramercy Theatre

About The Band: CBDB

CBDB is a progressive rock, jam-band from Alabama and their music is spreading from the southeast across the nation like wildfire. Defining a newfound, southern blend of joyful and progressive rock n roll, they channel a sonic mix of soulful vocals and virtuosic musicianship with smart, tasteful songwriting. On stage, each member of CBDB fluidly plays between complex composition and loose exploratory improvisation creating an incredible and unique live experience.

Watch CBDB's full performance from Variety Playhouse [02.01.20] here:

About The Band: Kendall Street Company

From late night jam sessions at the University of Virginia to main stages at venues and festivals throughout the country, Kendall Street Company has broken the mold of improvised rock and enters a world of jazz-grass infused psychedelic bliss. With no two shows ever the same, word of mouth has quickly grown a ravenous fanbase eager to hear their favorite studio tracks explored and extended as part of a live community. As seasoned KSC fans can tell you, any one of their songs could easily turn from a fun sing-along, into a cacophonous headbanging garage-rock soundscape, to a Klezmer-disco dance party, and then resolve into a peaceful ambient meditation that evokes nostalgia of your childhood.
Averaging over 100 shows per year since 2013, the band is currently comprised of Louis Smith [Acoustic guitar, vocals], Brian Roy [Bass, vocals], Ryan Wood [Drums], Ben Laderberg [Electric guitar], and Jake Vanaman [Saxophone]. For such a young band, their accomplishments are remarkable. Kendall Street has performed at festivals such as Lockn’, Roosterwalk, Floydfest, Resonance, and Domefest and has opened for acts such as Papadosio, Umphrey’s McGee, Tauk, and Leftover Salmon. All the while, the band has proudly released three records and two EPs on their own label. Their most recent 2019 release, “Lunar Dude” showcases their versatility and virtuosity, and was met with overwhelming support.
Charging into 2020 at full speed, The Company has no shortage of tunes and stories to share with the world. Their Winter Tour with CBDB will be their biggest yet, bringing them to myriad new locations and audiences. In addition to a hard-working tour schedule, the band has plans to release two (perhaps three!) albums throughout the year. 
Watch Kendall Street Company's music video for "Lunar Dude" here:

Back Forty Birmingham Confirms Lineup for Inaugural Music Festival February 4, 2020 11:27


Click Here: Purchase Tickets to Back Forty Social

Appearing national touring acts including North Mississippi Allstars, Keller Williams, Spafford, The Soul Rebels, The Motet, Kitchen Dwellers, Ryley Walker and Little Raine Band.

Back Forty Beer Company Birmingham and Big Spring Entertainment are proud to announce the full lineup for the first year “Back Forty Social”, to be held at Back Forty in Birmingham, Alabama. This one-day, all ages music festival will feature eight acts on one main stage and includes multiple genres spanning Bluegrass, Folk, Funk, Americana, Jam Band, and Southern Rock. Tickets start at $40 for the all-day event, and children 12 and under receive free general admission when accompanied by a paying adult.

Officially joining the lineup for the all day event are Jam Band staples Spafford. Spafford is known for their astonishing improvisational ability, which they’ll use to play live off the cuff extended jams. Each song is a blank canvas, and Spafford paints a picture in real time each night with a musical palette known only to each other. It’s a private language comprised of their talent as musicians, and of their formidable catalog of influences - ranging from Steely Dan, electronic acts like The Crystal Method, to 90’s alt rock radio hits. Every show is a sonic pilgrimage – the journey of a team of musicians so in tune with each other that a single note communicates intent and purpose.

Even though the band thrives off the electric pulse of live shows, the same energy also translates into their studio efforts. Their 2018 release “For Amusement Only” hits to the heart of Spafford – tight, inventive, and dexterous musicianship coupled with clever retro-pop inspired songwriting. Songs like “Leave The Light On” highlight their influences – from the melodic styles of Alanis Morissette to the rhythmic bounce of Bob Marley. Other tracks like “Ain’t That Wrong” and “Slip and Squander” are rich with other signature Spafford signs: vibrant vocal harmonies, complex and catchy arrangements, and sparkling, powerful performances.

Artists appearing at The 2020 Back Forty Social include, in order of appearance: Little Raine Band, Ryley Walker, Kitchen Dwellers, The Motet, The Soul RebelsSpafford, Keller Williams, and North Mississippi Allstars.

Admission: Tickets for the Back Forty Social are on sale now at and, with prices ranging from $40 General Admission to $85 VIP. Information about site layout, lineup schedule, and more will be released on the event’s website and social media channels over the next few weeks. 

About Back Forty Beer Company Birmingham: In 2018, Back Forty Beer Company joined Birmingham's thriving craft beer scene with the opening of its new 16-tap microbrewery at Sloss Docks. Freshly brewed beers include Naked Pig, Truck Stop Honey and other core recipes, plus a steady rotation of new experimental beers available only in the local market: Beers like "Crow Point" - their juicy New England IPA, "Hike Out Hefe" - their popular, traditional German Hefeweizen and “Hop Tosh” a perfectly balanced Northwest Coast IPA. Back Forty has a full restaurant with amazing dishes like the Back 40 Cheeseburger, Pizzas and the napinducing Poutine. Customers are invited to grab a beer and a burger and enjoy the dramatic views of Sloss Furnaces at Back Forty Beer Company. Learn more at

About Big Spring Entertainment: is a full-service concert and entertainment promotion company based in Huntsville, AL with offices in Nashville, TN and Birmingham, AL. BSE buys, promotes, and produces events across the South, Southeast, and Midwest specializing in music halls, clubs, theaters, performing art centers, arenas, amphitheaters, and festivals. Big Spring Entertainment is also the owner-operator of The Druid City Music Hall in Tuscaloosa, AL.

Here's a look at what you can expect from this year's lineup!

North Mississippi Allstars


Keller Williams




The Soul Rebels


The Motet


Kitchen Dwellers


Ryley Walker


Little Raine Band

Spafford & CBDB Deliver Jam-Filled Tuesday in Birmingham January 29, 2020 17:07

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Craig Baird & Penelope Josephson
Last night in Birmingham, music fans were treated to one of the more jam-filled occasions in recent memory. Spafford has built a strong reputation for extended jamming and mind blowing improvisation, and this was certainly on full display at Saturn. While the band's winter tour features a number of quality supporting acts, the Birmingham faithful could not have been more excited to see Tuscaloosa natives CBDB added to this show earlier this month.
Given CBDB's loyal fan base across Alabama, it was no surprise to see such a strong crowd anxiously awaiting as they took the stage. While I've been fortunate enough to see this band on many occasions since 2015, it had been just over a year since we last crossed paths. This would be the first opportunity for many to see the band's new drummer, Chris Potocik, in action. The fan favorite "Ground Score" kicked off the set and ultimately landed in a debut cover of Miles Davis' "Black Satin." Guitarists Kris Gottlieb and Cy Simonton would then lead the band into "Patterns," a track you can find on CBDB's latest album Out of Line.
Next up was "Smile Real Big," one of the band's staples from their 2012 release Phone Keys Wallet. The upbeat vibe continued as bassist Blake Gallant hit the opening notes of "She's Mobile," an original which may feature my favorite vocal work from Simonton. Just as the band hit their 45-minute mark, they nailed the transition back into "Ground Score" and closed out as the set just as powerfully as it began. 
The Tuesday night crowd continued to fill in as Spafford prepared to take the stage. Guitarist Brian Moss immediately kicked things into high gear with the opening notes of "All My Friends," and we were off to the races. This would be the beginning of what felt like two marathon sets. We would get our second selection from the band's Taste of Fall 2017 live release as they transitioned into a scorching rendition of "Bee Jam." It's safe to call this one a "jam vehicle," as Tuesday night's take clocked in at just under an hour. One of my personal highlights came in the form of "Settled In," an original which was debuted just over a year ago and played only a handful of times in 2019. While it seemed hard to believe, the nearly 80-minute set featured just three songs, with each featuring the one-of-kind jamming we've come to expect from this band.
After a brief set break, these guys would pick up right where they left off. Bassist Jordan Fairless hit the opening notes of "It's a Bunch," which was greeted with an emphatic response from the "Spaffnerds" stretched out across the front row. This is the song that won me over back in 2016 and led me to dive deeper into the Spafford catalog. I couldn't have been more pleased to sit back and watch this journey unfold. Moss and keyboardist Andrew "Red" Johnson slowly but surely directed the band into a killer take on Bob Marley's "Exodus." I've always admired this band's overall approach towards covers, and this was as perfect example why. The opening notes of "Windmill" had the entire room grinning from ear to ear and eager for one last raging sing-a-long. 
If you were hungry for mind-bending jams and sonic exploration, Spafford's performance in Birmingham was just what the doctor ordered. I found it very fitting that they tacked on the classic "Catfish John" for the encore. After the intensity of those three-song marathon sets, this was a perfect and refreshing way to close out the evening. This band seems to be settling in to their new Birmingham home just fine, and we will be anxiously awaiting their next appearance in town.

Turkuaz Brings Power Funk to Birmingham January 16, 2020 14:18

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Fresh off of a week on Jam Cruise, the nine-piece "power funk army" known as Turkuaz kicked off a three-week tour at Birmingham's Saturn on Wednesday night. While it had been nearly two years since their last appearance, the Birmingham faithful showed up in numbers for an incredibly entertaining night of music. The "new look" Turkuaz may have parted ways with their color coded wardrobe, but the dynamic performance that we've all become accustomed to is stronger than ever. 
The crowd got a taste of up-and-coming star Neal Francis, whose unique blend of classic rock and roll soul was a huge hit. While I was only able to catch his last few songs, there was a notable buzz surrounding his opening set all day leading up to doors opening. The amount of people who stopped and asked, "Did you catch that opening set?" was very encouraging to see. Francis clearly made his mark on Alabama, and I will certainly be paying closer to attention on he and his band moving forward.
Turkuaz took the stage in explosive fashion, as expected. "Nightswimming" kicked off the set and gave us the first taste of the band's 2015 release, Digitonium. "Heat Drop" gave us a look into the new EP, Kuadrochrome, which was released in November of 2019. The stroll through Turkuaz history continued with "If I Ever Fall Asleep" and "Gonna Make You Famous," both of which can be found on Life In The City (2018). Bassist Taylor Shell was firing on all cylinders as the band led into "Mister Man," one of five tracks on the 2019 EP Afterlife Vol. 2. While I can't recall exactly which song, saxophonist Greg Sanderson gave us our first dose of the EWI (electronic wind instrument), which is always a super fun touch.
The set continued with "Got To Get Better" > "The Quesiton" > "Big Business" > "One and Lonely." By this point in the set, the rowdy Birmingham crowd was moving and shaking to every note, soaking up every minute of the dance party at hand. "Coast To Coast" > "Lookin' Tough Feelin' Good" kept the energy at the highest level, before drummer Michaelangelo Carubba led the way for saxophonist Josh Schwartz to light the room on fire with his vocal work on "Babies Making Babies." You would be hard pressed to find any band with the vocal range of Turkuaz. Between Schwartz, frontman Dave Brandwein, and the lovely combo of  Shira Elias and Sammi Garrett, there's just few bands that can even compete. 
One of the highlights of the set came with "Superstatic," which has got to be one of the best dance tracks of the modern era. I've made a point to keep this one in regular rotation since the release of Life In The City in 2018. Elias took the spotlight for a cover of Donny Hathaway's "Jealous Guy," while an emphatic "Brain Drain" closed down the set. After a brief exit from the stage, we would get one more look at Kuadrochrome with "The Ballad of Castor Troy." 
While I would have personally loved a second set of Turkuaz, I can't say enough about the 90 minutes of funk-filled jams that ensued. This band continues to climb the ranks of the music world, and every time I see them perform I am reminded why. They're gearing up for a big run of shows with Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew of Talking Heads this summer, which includes a co-headliner at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre with The Motet. It's always a treat having this band in the Southeast, and we should all hope this becomes a regular tradition in the future.

Letting it Slide: A Conversation with Marco Benevento January 15, 2020 02:25


Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Jean Frank Photography

Calling all Southeast music enthusiasts. We would like to ask you to stop what you're doing and clear your schedule. It's officially one of our favorite times of the year, when keyboard wizard Marco Benevento brings his wildly entertaining three-piece solo project through the heart of the South. The madness kicks off on Thursday night (1/16) in Austin, TX and continues with stops in Houston (1/17), New Orleans (1/18), Birmingham (1/19), Knoxville (1/20), Asheville (1/21), Carboro, NC (1/22), Charlotte (1/23), Charleston (1/24), and Atlanta (1/25).

The band is fresh of its seventh studio release, Let it Slide, and they have never been more dialed in. After taking a totally different approach in the studio, Marco and company have a deeper catalog than ever before. Bassist Karina Rykman and drummer Dave "DB" Butler round out this prolific trio and bring a level of energy that is matched by none. Over the weekend, we had a chance to catch up with Benevento to learn more about Let it Slide and hear all about the band's plans for 2020. See below for the full conversation and make sure to catch these guys (and gals) in a city near you!

I appreciate you taking the time to chat for a few minutes today, Marco. I know that everyone in Birmingham is excited to have you back in town at Saturn on Sunday night. 

Marco: Absolutely. Saturn is such a cool venue man. We've loved playing there the last few stops in Birmingham.
It really is. One of the newer spots in town. That green room is really next level.
Marco: It's so dope man. 
I figured we could start off by talking about the new year. We've officially closed the door on 2019. How did you feel about last year as a whole, and what are some of your goals and resolutions for 2020?
Marco: Totally. 2019 was an awesome year for us. We put out a new record and had the chance to work with Leon Michels. If you haven't checked him out, I highly recommend you do. You can find his work on Spotify or Apple Music under "El Michels Affair." Working with him this year and releasing the record felt really good. We did almost 40 shows in three months. Something crazy like that. We went to Japan, which was a really cool experience. I guess, going forward, we're going to try and get to Europe. We just got a European booking agent, so I'm excited to go play overseas and see what that feels like. 
Is that something that you expect to happen this year?
Marco: Yeah, I do. Most likely later this year. I'm looking forward to everyone getting familiar with the new record and hearing all of the new jams. They're really coming alive when we play them on tour. 
Did you end up having a New Year's show this year?
Marco: No, we all had off this year. I actually when to Leon's (Michels) house for a party. We didn't have a gig, which was great. I've obviously been playing and touring for a long time and having a New Year's Eve off is kind of special, honestly. 
I'd imagine that hasn't been very common in recent years. 
Marco: Right. Very true. I've had so many New Year's gigs that have just been madness, especially in New York City. It's super fun, and everyone is so ready to go. It's such a fun holiday, but it's also nice to just have a fire outside in your yard. 
That's got to be a nice change of pace.
Marco: Yeah man. Totally. 
Watch Marco Benevento's music video for "Let it Slide" here:
You mentioned the new album, Let it Slide. I've had it playing all morning. This is your seventh solo album, correct?
Marco: That's right. 
I know that they all tell their own story. The writing process and the studio experience are unique in their own right. When you look at this album, how was this different that those of the past?
Marco: Totally. Working with Leon was a whole new thing. I didn't know him personally when we got together. I met him through our friend Richard Swift, who we put out a record with about five years ago. That record was actually called Swift. Richard is friends with Dan Auerbach and was in that band, The Archs, that Dan started a few years back. Leon was the keyboard player in that band. He and his wife were having a child and had to miss the last week of tour. Richard recommended that I sub in for Leon. 
I had a chance to get on a tour bus with Dan Auerbach and company and play all of those tunes. I don't know if you've had a chance to check it out, but you should. It's so good. I've been a fan of Dan's for years. I love his voice. So, Richard recommended that I sub for Leon, and I met him as we were overlapping on tour. When I called him about doing the record, I had only met him that one time. We got together, and I played him all of the demos that I made. All of the tunes were kind of demoed out before we met, so we would scroll through them and work on two or three each day. 
I think we did five total days in the studio. I did a lot of overdubbing here at my own place. We worked on the record pretty casually for about two years, which was a whole new experience for me. I normally get deep into a record and want to finish it, maybe even quicker than it should be done. With this one, we let it simmer for a while. We both made decisions. There was never a single decision made by one individual. Leon and I made this record together. That was a really cool experience for me. I had never really worked with a producer on a record that I made. That was awesome. 
He had a lot of input and suggested a lot of things to do. Musically, he would come up with some extra chords or propose ideas for some melodies. We also realized that we had a mutual love for tennis. We got super deep into tennis, probably two or three times a week. Our kids are also the same age. The kids would go to school, then we would meet up, play tennis, and work on the record. As soon as the kids were heading home, we would leave to go see our families.
So, we would play a bunch of tennis, work on the record, and feel really good. Tennis is such a fun, focused game. That's why the cover of the record has that photo on it. Leon actually took that photo of a court we would play on up in Woodstock. 
Watch Marco Benevento's official music video for "Say It's All The Same" here:
That sounds perfect. Bonding over the tennis court, creating in the studio, and having a similar family dynamic seems like a winning combination. 
Marco: Totally. It was really a shared album. 
Did Karina (Rykman) end up playing on this album at all?
Marco: Karina is not playing any bass on this record. It was actually Nick Movshon, who is essentially Leon's right hand man. You've got to check out these dudes. They will blow you away. They've made so many records together, and a lot of people have sampled their records. He's in a whole other world of music. He's made records with Amy Winehouse, Lee Fields, Charles Bradley, Dr. John, Adele, Lady Gaga, and so many others.
They're super humble, chill, Brooklyn guys. They're total bad asses. Super good taste in music and recording music, in my opinion. I should also mention that Leon has a record label called Big Crown. He shares it with a couple other people. Any record on Big Crown has been heard through Leon's ears. That's another thing to check out. 
Nick, Leon, and myself are basically the three musicians on that record. Karina and everyone else had to learn all of the parts. Karina does sing on the record though. She sings backup vocals on a few tunes. She didn't play any bass though. That's just how Leon works. However he wanted to make the record was fine with me. I just rolled with his suggestions.
Are you still working with Andy Borger on drums?
Marco: Andy lives in Portland now. He hasn't been on the road with us for the past year, so we now have D.B. (Dave Butler) playing drums. D.B. has all the moves and knows all the tunes, so it was a pretty seamless transition. Andy moved to Portland, had a kid, and now plays with a band called Pink Martini. He's been super busy doing all of that, so it was tough for him to stay on the road with us. Luckily, D.B. was able to step right in. D.B. also plays with Guster. Luckily, he's also been available to tour with us, which has been super dope. 
Had the previous albums all been recorded with Andy on drums and Dave (Dreiwitz) on bass, prior to Karina joining the band?
Marco: Yes, exactly. 
It goes without saying that the transition from Dave to Karina was pretty amazing as well. Those were mighty big shoes to fill, but my God, Karina is such an entertaining performer. She has quickly become one of the best in the game. 
Marco: Oh completely. Personally, she's so much fun to be with on the road. It's just never ending laughter. We're having so much fun out there. She brings so much to the table with ripping fuzz bass solos to her singing lead on a few tunes. We have several covers that she sings lead on. It's a nice focus change to have someone else singing as well. I've always liked to have bands that have everybody singing and everyone playing. Sometimes they might even switch instruments. We haven't done that yet, but maybe we will. I've always liked the girl/boy voice combo too.
Watch Marco Benevento cover Butthole Surfers' "Pepper" at Armore Music Hall here:
It works so well for you two. The overall vibe that this band creates sparks a nostalgic feeling and has such an appeasing, uplifting sound from start to finish.
Marco: Hell yeah. Right on. Thanks Jordan. 
Karina was one of Dave's students, and he recommended her when Ween was getting back together, right?
Marco: Totally. It was another seamless transition from Dave to Karina. He knew that the Ween schedule was coming up, and he wasn't going to be able to do all of the dates with me. He basically taught Karina all of my tunes. They would get together, and she learned all of them. He really crushed it in that regard. Not many people leave the band and find their own replacement for you. He was like, "Marco...I can't do these gigs, but I'm going to teach Karina the tunes. She's going to kill it and add so much to the band." 
Initially, I was like, "No! Dave! Where are you going?!" So, we do our first gig with Karina in Boston, maybe three years ago, and it worked instantly. She was amazing from day one. Dave knew that he wasn't going to be able to juggle all of that, so he totally hooked it up with the amazing Karina Rykman in my band. Now she has her own music, which is really, really good. 
What a transition it was. I'm sure she knew they were big shoes to fill. It's been a pleasure watching her come into her own as a member of this band. She has a great stage presence, and she couldn't seem to be having any more fun on stage. That's great to see as a fan.
Marco: Absolutely.
As you know, my introduction to you was through the Benevento Russo Duo many years ago. I still remember listening to the Darts album for the first time in 2003. There was so much amazing instrumental music coming from The Duo, and later Garage A Trois. Now, you've become a lyricist and handle a healthy dose of vocals. How has this experience played out?
Marco: I was just talking to my friend about this the other day. I'm 42 now, so you've known me since I was in my late 20's. Wow, a lot has happened since then, as you know. I was talking to my buddy, and we were both kind of high fiving about where we are. We both finally put out a record where we have figured out that we are fully realized as human musicians. We've realized that we're making fully, whole music. Vocals, lyrics, good arrangements, shorter songs, professional production, all of that. 
People are kind of rediscovering our band. We've kind of reached a new platform. We are playing bigger rooms. We have all of these new songs, as well as the old songs. We have instrumental music, then we have the heavy rock music led with fuzz bass. We have more "radio friendly" songs now. We were just thinking about how we are fully realized as musicians right now. Of course, it's going to change, and I'll probably say the same thing in 5-10 years. 
I guess it's a new starting point. There are so many elements of the past in the new music, like playing instrumental material. There are points in our show where we are just playing instrumental tunes. There is a lot of musical interaction and not much singing. It almost feels like you're getting the full gamut of music from almost a classical sounding jazz/rock, to a girl singing a Buzzcocks song, to us singing a Butthole Surfers tune, to an original tune that sounds like something you could hear on the radio. 
I feel like we have a really nice variety of things to cover on any given night. I like that fact. It's a pretty different show. A lot of tunes seem like they could be from almost different bands. Somehow, it's all one color and one vibe. It becomes our show, and the way we entertain people. It's really cool. I feel like I'm just getting started. I'm really excited for the next year, to see how the music will grow.
I'm sure it's a totally different experience of telling your story through writing lyrics and finding your voice through the vocal work. It's been a lot of fun to watch from afar. 
Marco: Totally, man. 
To wrap things up, you've had the opportunity to be a part of so many different significant projects. You've seen it all at this point, from the dive bars to some of the biggest festival stages in the world. When you look back on the experience, what is it that you love about these more intimate venues, such as those on this upcoming run of shows?
Marco: Right. First and foremost, the crowd is so much closer to you. When it's a really great night and everyone is honed in, you can feel it even more in the smaller rooms. The song ends, and it's so loud when the crowd erupts. It's a really cool feeling. We recently played a smaller room in Portland, Oregon, and it was one of those nights. You can just tell that people are good to go. That is a great feeling. You know it, because they're right there in front of you. With some of the festivals, the stage is 10 feet tall, the crowd is past the barriers, and it's more of a sea of people. That's equally as rewarding, obviously, because there are even more people.
Another aspect is that we get to put on our own vibe with our own show. We get to show people what we have made, and what we are promoting. It's really nice to have an entire room of people listening to your music. I've been a part of several other projects which obviously cover a lot of ground. This is a different thing that allows us to shift the focus. I like knowing that we are showing up at these clubs, and we're putting on a show that we all like from all of the records that we have made. 
I can imagine how rewarding of an experience that is. 
Marco: It really is. It's a great feeling. 
Well, it's been a pleasure catching up. It's been way too long since I've seen this band play, and I'm really looking forward to this weekend. It's been nothing short of amazing to watch your musical story unfold over the years. I couldn't be happier for you and look forward to seeing what's next. 
Marco: Thanks so much Jordan. See you soon!

Widespread Panic Bestows Ultimate Trust in New Orleans November 8, 2019 14:44

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Now that I’ve had several days to regroup, it seems fitting to sit down and revisit last weekend’s Halloween festivities with Widespread Panic. After 18 years of seeing this band, I finally had the opportunity to make this special tradition a priority. Halloween is always amongst the biggest annual events for any major touring act, and Widespread Panic never fails to deliver to its fervent fan base. 

Speculation was rampant, as expected, leading into Thursday night’s show. Upon entering UNO Arena, fans were introduced to an elaborate stage setup, which included Christmas decorations, a taxi cab, a wrestling wring, and what appeared to be the back drop of a comedy club. We began wondering if these props could somehow be tied to Andy Kaufman, and this would prove to be the case later in the night. The band took the stage, and immediately invited NOLA’s own George Porter Jr. to join them on stage. Bassist Dave Schools let George take the lead on bass, while he focused his efforts on the rubber chicken, and the band appropriately kicked into The Meters’ “Chicken Strut.” They proceeded to get the entire room singing along for “Hey Pocky Way,” another Meters’ classic. 

The first set continued with The Talking Heads’ “Papa Legba,” and originals such as “One Arm Steve,” “Love Tractor,” “Hatfield,” “All Time Low,” and “Pilgrims” would follow. It had been two and a half years since the last cover of James Taylor’s “Knockin’ Round the Zoo” (JazzFest 2017), which made this set closer that much more raucous. The second set began with the theme to Mighty Mouse playing over the PA, before the band dropped into Bloodkin’s “Henry Parsons Died.” This was followed by a powerful “Surprise Valley” > “Arleen” > “Surprise Valley.” We stomped around the “Old Neighborhood” just before a rockin’ take on “Holden Oversoul.” The next bust out came in the form of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful” (LTP 10/08/14 Montgomery, AL), and “Tallboy” had the whole place going wild. 

The Halloween antics really began taking shape from here. John Bell welcomed REM’s Mike Mills to the stage, and the debut of Lou Reef’s “Perfect Day” was a beautiful surprise. At some point, a man posted up at a small table on stage left, where he proceeded to eat a meal and drink wine. Two more debuts then surfaced in the form of David Bowie’s “Starman” and REM’s “Man on the Moon” both with the help of Mills on guitar/bass and Paul Agostino on keys. “Porch Song” was an absolutely perfect way to close out this set.

The encore was without a doubt one of the more interesting live music experiences of my life. The band returned to the stage with Mills and Agostino, while drummer Duane Trucks was on bass and Dave Schools front and center. I had absolutely no idea what was going on at the time, but Schools proceeded to inform us all that “I Trusted You” for the better part of five minutes (see video below). Two more highly obscure Andy Kaufman nods followed with “This Friendly World” and “Volare,” before tour manager Steve Lopez took the stage to ask the audience to please stop smoking in the building.  This is when things got really bizarre.

John Bell invited the infamous Tony Clifton to the stage. I will go ahead and admit that I didn’t realize this was keyboardist JoJo Hermann until the following day. He began singing about “Tacos” being cheap, before a “heckler” started screaming obscenities at him. Clifton appeared to be fed up with said heckler, told her to suck one, and she jumped on stage to throw multiple drinks at the band. At this point, the band exited the stage, security escorted the woman off stage, the lights came on, and we all wondered, “what the fuck just happened?” The band would immediately offer an emphatic apology to the fans via social media, which proved to be all part of an extensive Andy Kaufman inspired Halloween gag.  Like I said, it was an interesting night, but it was also pure genius, in my humble opinion.

Watch Widespread Panic perform "I Trusted You" here:

The Panic faithful had plenty to discuss leading into Friday night’s show. Was this the last of the shenanigans, or would this be a common theme throughout the weekend?  We wouldn’t see any gags on night two, but Jesus Christ, did we get a hot show. The first set was one big “Bowlegged” > “Chilly Sandwich,” with tunes such as “”Little Lilly,” “Visiting Day,” “Walkin’ (For Your Love),” and “You Got Yours” thrown in the middle. JB had a slight technical malfunction during “Christmas Katie,” which left the frontman singing without his guitar for the first half of the song. The highlight of the set had to be the first “Entering a Black Hole Backwards” since 2014 dropping back into “Chilly Water,” which would then segue back into “Bowlegged.” That is Widespread Panic at its finest. 

 Everyone’s got their own opinion, but for me, the perfect Panic set begins with “Disco" > "Diner.” This smokin' set continued with “Blackout Blues,” “The Last Straw, and “Mercy,” before we got our first “Drums” of the weekend. They came back out guns blazing with “Chainsaw City” and “Four Cornered Room,” then “Jack” led straight into a “Red Hot Mama” from Louisiana that nearly brought the house down. The band revisited the 2017 Halloween show with The Dillards’ “There is a Time,” which was originally performed on the Andy Griffith Show, and Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me” would put the finishing touches on a damn near flawless show.

I think we were all convinced that it was Sunday at this point, but fortunately, this run began on a Thursday night. What was left in the tank for Saturday? We were in for a treat…that’s for sure. We started with a flashback to Pulp Fiction when guitarist Jimmy Herring ripped into “Rumble,” an instrumental by Link Wray & His Ray Men. The set continued with Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West” and “Greta,” and “Climb to Safety” would follow. Being that this song has become somewhat of a Panic anthem (even though it’s Jerry Joseph’s song), it’s reputation is somewhat controversial. I, for one, will never get tired of hearing it. On this night, I experienced one of the more euphoric body highs of my life during the first chorus. Every hair of my body was standing on edge, and it felt really fucking good.

“Junior” and “Makes Sense to Me” were next on the list, just before one of the weekend’s most exciting moments. Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville joined the band for an amazing sequence of “Sleepy Monkey” > “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” (Dr. John) > “Cream Puff War" (Grateful Dead). Does it get any hotter than that?  The second set was equally as impressive. We were off to the races with “Radio Child” and “Thought Sausage.” Another bust out surfaced with John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s “The Ballad of John & Yoko.” “Honkey Red” set a super heavy, serious tone, before an absolutely perfect “Driving Song” was played. “Breathing Slow” led into another rager, “Impossible,” and Vampire Blues came next. “Pigeons” is always a treat, especially when “Papa’s Home” is looming in the distance. Trucks and percussionist Sonny Ortiz led us through another impressive “Drums,” which landed back into “Papa’s” just in time for a set closing “Action Man.” 

While I’ve seen several nods to the late Col. Bruce Hampton, it had been about eight years (02/14/11) since I had seen Panic play “Basically Frightened.” This would begin the encore and lead perfectly into “Blue Indian.” It then appeared that “Postcard” would close out the weekend. Per usual, the entire building was ready to shout, “This town is nuts. My kind of place. I don’t ever wanna leave.” Not so fast, y’all.  We were treated to a reprise of “I Trusted You,” and I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed so hard. Are you kidding me?

There were high expectations for my first Halloween with Panic, and this band never lets me down. What almost seemed like a page out of the Phish playbook made this weekend as unique as any I’ve experienced. These musical journeys always seem to leave us feeling recharged and grateful for this fortunate life we live. There is nothing I’d rather do than embark on a weekend of mayhem with some of the best friends you could ever ask for, along with one of the greatest bands to ever take the stage.

All Things Equal 5 of 7: An Interview with Jimmy Herring & Kevin Scott September 18, 2019 12:11

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Interviews and artist spotlights have always been the "bread and butter" of Live & Listen. Over the years, I've had the opportunity to talk with so many amazing artists, in an effort to learn more about their current endeavors and share these stories with as many people as possible. Earlier this week, I was asked if I had interest in chatting with famed guitarist Jimmy Herring, who just kicked off a major tour with his latest project, The 5 of 7. That was obviously an easy decision. 

Many know Jimmy's work as lead guitarist for Widespread Panic, Aquarium Rescue Unit, and Jazz is Dead. This conversation focuses on The 5 of 7, which features the likes of Kevin Scott (bass), Matt Slocum (keys), Rick Lollar (guitar/vocals), and Darren Stanley (drums). The group shares one common thread: they're all students of the late Col. Bruce Hampton. As you'll read below, this commonality continues to shape and influence their approach to music and life in general. 

The 5 of 7 continue their tour tonight in Iowa City and will continue trekking across the United States through early October. After a month long break, which allows Jimmy to reunite with his Widespread Panic band mates for weekends in Milwaukee & New Orleans, the 5 of 7 will continue through the Southeast, before closing things out with a multi-night run in Tokyo, Japan. See below for our full conversation with Jimmy and Kevin Scott!

Let’s get right to it. Your latest project, The 5 of 7, kicked off the tour in Colorado over the weekend. What did you take away from this band’s first official performances?

Jimmy: Yeah man. The whole idea was, in my mind...I wanted to work with some younger musicians. I'd already been working with Kevin (Scott) from the last band. Matt Slocum too, of course. They had another band, King Baby, that just blew me away. I loved Rick (Lollar) and really wanted to work with a singer. I couldn't imagine anyone else. As soon as I heard him, I thought, "This guy is great. Let's work with him." Darren Stanley (drums) had been working with Bruce (Hampton), and I'd heard him a few times. I was just knocked out by him. Kevin told me that they had a real chemistry together. So, that seemed like a no brainer. We just got together, with no gigs on the books, just to see how it felt. Nobody wanted any money. No one needed a hotel room or a flight. We just got together for fun, and we knew the first day, you know? I was like, "This is gonna be blast." 

What did I take away from the first gig? Nothing's ever perfect. We know that. Every gig has gotten better so far though. The first night was Denver, then Fort Collins was better, and then Boulder was even better. So...I'm really looking forward to Iowa City tomorrow night. We're having a lot of fun out here. 

Now you've had two days to hopefully rest and regroup. What does an off day look like for you on this tour?

Jimmy: You'd be laughing. Sleep 'til 2:00 PM. (laughs) The other guys don't do this. I'm older now. Sleep 'til 2:00 PM. Wake up. Stumble into the lobby. Drink coffee. Laugh at everybody. Go back to the room and make a phone call. Come back. Laugh again. Get another cup of coffee. Tell some Bruce stories. Laugh some more. Then, maybe talk about...I don't know man. That's all we've done so far. (laughs). 

Has there been a particularly good Bruce story that you guys have relived this week?

Jimmy: There's probably been several. The one just we told five minutes before we called you was how he said he didn't want us to be skinny. He wanted us to get fat. He said we sounded better when we were fat.

Kevin: Always. 

I suppose there may be some truth to that. 

Kevin: B.B. King. Albert King. 

Jimmy: That's right. The fatter the better. 

Kevin: Bernard Purdie. Fat. 

Jimmy: The fatter you get, the better tone. (laughs)

Incredible. I'm sure it's been amazing to see this band come to life. We've covered some of this already, but what else can you tell me about how this lineup fell into place?

Jimmy: One thing I didn't say is that Kevin is the conduit between the worlds. He has had his finger on the pulse of what's happening in the Atlanta music scene for years. He's who I went to and said, "Let's try something different. I want to work with a singer. Who else is in Atlanta?" Man, I've lived in Atlanta since 1986. I got in Bruce's band three years later. And since then, I haven't been to Atlanta. (laughs)

You know what I mean? We're touring all the time. I really didn't know what was happening in Atlanta. These younger people started coming into my life, like Kevin and Duane (Trucks), and they'd tell me, "You've gotta hear this guy." I started meeting guys like Kebbi (Williams) who plays in Derek Trucks' band (Tedeschi Trucks Band). All the things he has done on the side. Kevin had that jam going on in Atlanta. I may not have been there for every one. I went to a few. I really enjoyed it a lot. I like to play with people with enthusiasm. He knows them all, and he's got that enthusiasm. He's kind of the architect of the band. 

That's a great architect to have. You've had the opportunity to be a part of countless projects. How does the dynamic of this particular group continue to push you as both a guitarist and a person?

Jimmy: We have a great variety of music. It never gets boring, because it delves into all of the music we play and the spontaneity that might happen. The thing I love about playing with these guys, well, there's a lot. One of them is that they won't take you to that place at an inappropriate time. You know? Inappropriate is subjective. We could be playing a ballad, and there might be a few things that happen in the music that take us toward a Zambi direction. I don't have to worry that it won’t come back. These guys are young, but they're mature. They follow and listen to each other. 

If you hear a guy play something a little left of center, the other guys will react, but if the person with the ball doesn't continue in that direction, then it's just a little funny moment, and then it goes back. There's always the threat that it might completely ascend into a spontaneous moment that might last longer than a moment. You know what I mean? I've played with a lot of other people when it might go to that place and never come back. And that's cool too, but this is not that. 

We're trying to play songs without putting ourselves in prison of being stuck by the song. A song shouldn't be pre-thought out, and it shouldn't just do one thing in one certain spot. I think we're walking that line pretty well, don't you Kevin? 

Kevin: Oh yeah. For sure.

Jimmy: That's the hope. That keeps me going, man. The youth and exuberance of these guys… Everybody wants to be here, and everybody gets to play. Nobody feels like they're just the background band and I'm gonna take every solo. We don't want to do that. We want everyone to get to get a chance play and interact with one another. Part of that is being able to write music that makes that possible. Hopefully, we'll write more music together. We've got some, but we want more. 

We're playing some of my tunes from the past. Some of King Baby's tunes. We're doing a few covers. It's still interesting, and there's everything from ballads to funk and blues. Leanings towards jazz, but I wouldn't call it jazz, per say. We have R&B music in there. All of the things we love are a part of what we're doing. We try to pace the set where it's not too many of the same things in a row. We have a lot of tunes with extended improvisation for each band member. We're trying not to put those all in a row. That way it's not the same thing for 35-40 minutes. You know what I mean.

Absolutely. I'm sure you're well aware that you have one of the more attentive audiences around, and you've got to keep them guessing.  

Jimmy: Man, it's amazing how wonderful they are. They are perfectly willing to go anywhere you want to go. It's really wonderful.

Have you noticed that this is a pretty common thread with your fans with both ARU and Panic as well?

Jimmy: Yeah, I would say that. Absolutely. Panic fans are just up for anything. They don't get bored if you go on an extended improvisation. They're loving it. And when they come to these these shows and support what we're doing, I'm so grateful. It goes all the way back to the ARU days. We started playing with Panic back in those days. We were opening them with Bruce's band, and it gave us a whole new audience. Through playing with Panic, we met the guys from Phish and Blues Traveler, and we toured with them, opening for them back in the day. It's really still with us today.

It's funny. The world seems to want to put you in a category or genre, and we don't really think about music that way. We just like music. We don't really draw a line in the sand and say, "This is jazz. This is blues. This is improvisation. This is bluegrass." We don't really think in those terms. Everyone is really stylistically diverse, and it just seems like the audience loves all of it. It's just a gift to give, to be able to blow down the walls between genres with no apologies. We're lucky. 

I can only imagine how rewarding that is on your end. So, how about you, Kevin? What type of impact has building this relationship and playing with Jimmy had on you? 

Jimmy: Don't make me cry, Kevin. Don't make me cry!

Kevin: I've always had a weird way of putting something in my head and saying, "I'm gonna do this." When I was younger, obviously Bruce's influence on me as a person and musician was huge. But one of the first times I heard Jimmy play guitar, I was 16 years old, and I was like, "I'm gonna work with that guy one day. It's gonna happen." The difference between what Jimmy does versus any other guitar player on the planet, and I've worked with a lot of them in the jazz/fusion realm, the way he plays is who he is. Sure, when it comes down to musicianship or guitar playing, he's number one, but as a person, he's number one. That's why people are drawn to him. That's why we go play clubs, and there are 800 people in Colorado. He appeals to people because of who he is. That's something you really can't teach somebody. 

The impact of as a musician, for me, a guy like him giving everyone in the band equal opportunity. That just does not happen. A lot of other bands that I've worked with, I've essentially had to answer to someone in a certain way in terms of my playing or personality. Jimmy has given everyone the opportunity to be in a band where are no side men. That's the big difference. He gives everyone complete freedom to be themselves, just like Bruce did. That's the biggest impact I've experienced. That's the way I try to lead a band too. 

Working with Jimmy has definitely had the biggest impact on me as a person and my career. He's kind of set a bar that's impossible for people to get to. In this band in particular, it's the first time I've ever been in a situation on the road where on the stage, I'm completely confident. I don't have any kind of blockage to being myself. In every other project I'm in, there is essentially a certain hat that I'll have to put on, and that's good. I love all of the projects I'm a part of, and I think the music is great. In this particular band though, I'm 100% myself. I see other people who have to be someone else when they go to work for someone. I'm saddened by that. 

Jimmy: I mean, why would you hire a guy who beautifully plays his or herself, but yet you're gonna say, "No. Put that in a little box over here. We'll use that only doing certain parts of the show, or not at all." I don't understand that. We're all in this thing together. You can't do it any other way, in my opinion. We're all on the stage. Everyone's voice is combined together, and that's what makes the big picture. Why would you want to stifle that in any way?

I'm blessed, because I'm lucky enough to have a great life in music. This thing we're doing here, this is just cake. It really is. It's so easy to go out and do this. It might be a rough tour schedule, but when we get on stage and get to playing, that's the easy part. It's all that easy stuff that makes it hard. The food wasn't good, or you didn't get a good night of sleep. Whatever. With those kinds of things entering the picture, why would anyone want to complicate it more by telling someone that they can't be themselves?

You mentioned that there are at least a handful of new originals in the mix. I was curious to know how the songwriting process is playing out with this band in particular.

Jimmy: You want to take this one, Kevin?

Kevin: Sure. Someone brings a sketch to the table, and then we all comment on it. That's what is so beautiful about it as a band. Obviously, there are songs with pre-written parts that have been around for a while. In terms of a new song, Jimmy might say, "Alright. I've got this progression. What can we do with it?" Rick might suggest lyrics over it. It's just open communication, which is the basis of success of anything. 

Jimmy: Absolutely, and we had the luxury of getting together without gigs on the book. The first time we got together was last November, so it's been almost a year, but with no pressure. That's what I wanted more than anything, to work with some young, enthusiastic musicians who were like, "Let's see what we can do with this. Let's see where it goes." There was no pay for the rehearsals. There were no hotel rooms. 

Kevin: I've gotta tell him the story of the load-out. 

Jimmy: Oh yeah.

Kevin: We basically had to load out all of the gear for the tour from a box truck with no lift. We had the (Hammond B3) and a case that weigh 400 pounds. We did all of this as a band. There wasn't a single person that left. We all could've said, "I don't want to do this. This isn't my job." Everyone was in there, in the trenches, lifting this heavy ass shit and getting it done. Everyone took responsibility and said, "Let's knock this out as fast and safe as we can." It was actually a good moment to begin the tour. 

Jimmy: These guys wouldn't let me help with the B3. I wanted to, but they wouldn't let me do it. We've got all these strong young people. I'll say this though. I can't imagine doing a gig without a B3 organ. It's heavy. It's a game changer. It changes your travel plan. If it weren't for the B3, we could rent a cargo van, stuff the gear in there, and we would be just fine. We could save tons of money. But you know what? Without the B3, where is the Earth? We need the B3. The B3 is critical to what we're doing. And Matt Slocum is a master of it. 

Kevin: An absolute master. 

Jimmy: The idea of touring without a B3 is just not an option. So yeah, I'd get down there and lift that damn B3, because I don't want to go to the next town without it. Even guys who aren't playing the B3 know how important it is. 

You really can't replicate the sound of the B3. So Jimmy, this tour puts you back on the road a bit more; hopping from one city to the next. It can be a grueling lifestyle, but I know there's some excitement about getting back out there as well. What do you enjoy most about touring and playing the more intimate venues?

Jimmy: I would say that the camaraderie is probably number one. You're in the trenches together. And let's face it, a lot of people have it a lot worse. We've all had it a lot worse. There are people calling me that I've known for 30 years going, "What are you doing to yourself? You're 57 years old!" There's just a rhythm you get into with a band playing a schedule like this. You don't have a twelve man crew. You have a three or four man crew. The musicians help each other. Setting each other’s rigs up, you know? 

It's hard to tear down your own rig, because people are still in the room screaming at you. "Kevin! Kevin!" 

Kevin: They aren't screaming my name.

Jimmy: Oh yeah they are. They're screaming everybody's name. If they see you on stage after the show, they'll be screaming at you. But setting up your rig when no one’s around, that's easy to do. We all take part in that. It makes things easier for the four crew members we have, which are wearing five hats a piece. One guy is the tour manager, merch guy, spiritual leader, and God knows what else. You've got a guy who is guitar tech, bass tech, and keyboard tech. Then you've got another guy driving the bus. He’s out there lifting gear, and he shouldn't be. That's not his job, but everybody wants to help. I like that, and that's one of the things I take away from a tour like this.

That's not to say that I don't love when there's a twelve man crew. You show up, and everything is already done when you walk in the door. That's great. This is a different thing. I feel like with the smaller venues, well, "small" is relative. If we can't fit on the stage, I don't like that. If we're playing a venue that is too small for our footprint on stage, I'm not happy about that. When I say small, I mean any place that has a big enough stage for this five-piece band's equipment, and we do have a lot of equipment. The reason is because in this day and age, you've got Kemper and ax effects for guitar players where they plug into a computer, and it goes to the house. There are no speakers on stage. Bass player is playing through computers. Keyboard player is playing through jack-of-all-trades keyboards, or a computer. 

This whole mass castration of rock and roll; where you can't play louder than we're talking right now without offending someone. I don't know what to say to those people. I think I would say, "If our band is too loud for you, I'm sorry. Don't come here." We're playing with 40 watt guitar amps. Kevin's got a SVP bass amp. It's only the sound of a generation, you know? This is the music that made us want to play. So why would we be worrying about offending someone? That's what we love. As long as we can fit on the stage, we're gonna set up close together, where we can feel each other’s sweat and communicate better with each other. 

I guess I cut my teeth with Bruce in these little rooms. There is a thing that you get there that you just don't get in the bigger venues. You can call it more intimate. That's one thing. It is more intimate. The people are literally like five feet in front of you. I love that, and I don't want to hurt anyone with volume. You know, it is weird sometimes to look at the front row and realize someone's face is right in your speaker cabinet. I'll tell people to put their ear plugs in. We'll cover up the speakers with something to help keep from hurting anyone. We certainly don't want to hurt anyone, but I don't want to play through a 12-watt amp. You know what I mean?

I don't think your audience would want that either.

Jimmy: They probably wouldn't, man. But you've got to have a room that can contain these five people. If you're in a room that's too small that can't contain the sound of these five people, that's probably not good. I mean, I know that we'll be in some rooms like that. Those first three gigs we did, none of those rooms were that small. They aren't too small for our sound. We had The Gothic in Denver, The Aggie in Ft. Collins, and The Fox in Boulder. What does The Fox hold, like 700 people?

Kevin: Probably.

Jimmy: But it has a real stage, and we can fit on it. That room is big enough to contain our sound. We're in heaven. 700 people. That's perfect. That's what I take away from all of this. It's just fun, and it gets you back to what made you want to play in the first place. 

Love hearing that. Just one more thing before we wrap this up. I know it's early, and you guys all have busy schedules, but what do you see for the 5 of 7 beyond this fall? Is this a project we could see continue and evolve?

Jimmy: The idea of it was that we would play this tour and see how we all felt about it. Having played three shows, I can say that if keeps going like this, yes it's happen again. As long as everyone in the band wants it to, and they feel like doing more. From what I've experienced thus far, I want to play more. But I'm older now. This is part of the problem. I'm older, and I love to play, man. Sometimes touring can be tough. It's not really the touring though. It's that commitment you have to make a year in advance, where you see your whole life laid out on a calendar. 

It's like someone picking your clothes out for you and saying, "Here's what you're wearing on Tuesday, Wednesday..." Sometimes it's hard to make that commitment. Now that people don't buy albums like they used to, touring is a crowded place to be. I mean, we've always toured. That's our thing. We've always made records, but it's not like the records have sold enough to stay at home. We weren't Steely Dan, you know what I'm saying? 

The point being, I'm just older now. You’re at the end of a tour, and people are already looking to book dates 12 months out. I'm like, "What? Wait a minute. I just want to go fishing. I don't want to think about this right now." Sometimes I just want to hide for a little bit after a tour. If I have some time, I want to see my family, go out in the woods, and do some things I didn't get to do when I was younger. 

I'll probably be holding it back from being all it can be. If we were to tour 180 shows a year...oh my God, it might be able to get bigger if we toured that much. That's what it would take to make it really take off. You've got to be on the road all the time. I don't want to do that. I hope the other guys can be patient with me. 

Having said all of that, after this tour, if I feel like I feel right now, I'll be willing to talk about the next batch of dates within two months after we finish. I mean, I still play with Panic, and we don't tour anymore, but we will play a lot of shows. That's the number one priority. I can't do anything that gets in the way of that. Sometimes I have to wait and see what the Panic plans are before I can do anything else, and that's fine. I love those guys, and I love being in that band. I'm sure we will play more though. So far, everybody loves each other, and we're having fun.  

Watch Jimmy Herring & The 5 of 7 performing in Denver here:

Video by Coloartist

Tyler Neal Band Celebrates Album Release at The Vista Room September 12, 2019 13:08

Photos by Donna Winchester

Words by Rob Winchester

Tyler Neal took the stage on September 7th at The Vista Room in Atlanta to celebrate the release of his new album titled “Nothing To Lose”. Tyler was accompanied by his band, which included Franher Joseph on bass, Chad Mason on keys, and Kee Turnage on drums.  ​
Tyler has a remarkable craft for song writing and an equally measured ability for the live show. He possesses an almost (and I use this term lightly) innocent grin with a hint of nervousness. Not the bad nervousness, this is a good kind. The humble kid next door catching his break, while crossing his fingers and knocking on wood, in hopes he doesn’t wake up tomorrow from the dream that is Tyler Neal. I should clarify, this is no dream for Tyler. This is destiny. He is a natural with a clear directive, including a passport and marching orders handed down from Col. Bruce Hampton himself. It was this venue that Col. Bruce maintained a residency and while doing so, he enlisted the young and talented Tyler Neal to lead his band. Tyler returned to The Vista Room Saturday night poised for his very own musical offering. This was not lost on Tyler, as he respectfully set aside one empty chair, stage right, for Col. Bruce. An homage for his dear friend and mentor.​
Tyler started the show with a slide intro that set the tone for the evening.  This was a song that might as well have been the anthem for the evening, “People Get Together”. A welcoming to the unity and overall good vibe that Tyler will continue to serve up for the rest of the evening.​
The set continued with another track off of the new album. Stand up and witness, my brothers and sisters, Tyler and company took us to church. A gospel infused tune with Mason (keys) accenting in all the right places coupled with Neal’s pulpit worthy howl, reminding you to let some things go, “There Ain’t Nothing You Can Do.” This Saturday night at The Vista Room, we are treating our ears to some good music on a simple solution of Keys, Bass, Drum and a Six String. ​
Over the course of the evening, we received 2 sets that provided more of Tyler’s original music as well as some impressive covers such as “I Got A Woman” (Ray Charles), “Hey Pocky Way” (The Meters) and “Wish It Would Rain” (The Temptations). Midway through the first set we also hear another original from the album “Hello My Old Friend”.  A good example of how Tyler can reach into a time period and pull out an original song showcasing his talents. Tyler and his band ended the night with the title track off of the new album “Nothing To Lose.”  From his unmistakable howl to his delicate slide guitar, he gave us all a good taste of what we will find on the new album. A medley of Motown, Gospel and Blues Rock brought together on one stage for us all to enjoy while we dance and forget about our troubles.   ​
In between sets, we sat down for a quick Q&A with Tyler, which can be read in full below!
Tell us something about yourself that we might not know.
“I was born in Alaska. ‘92. I speak spanish. Pretty good spanish. I moved to Carrolton, Ga when I was three. Carrolton, Ga out in the middle of nowhere. My back yard had a fence that backed up to a cow pasture.”​
What would you be doing if you weren’t playing music?
“I’d probably have finished school and been an ESOL Teacher. Which is English as a second Language. Because I love spanish and a lot of my best friends growing up were foreign. I feel like it would be really cool... to be a connection for someone that didn’t speak the language. And you know, help them feel comfortable and help integrate them."​
Acoustic or Electric?​
"Electric. Because here’s the thing. With Electric you can still play soft.​
With Acoustic, the ceiling is really low.​"
Can you share any news on recent collaborations?
"This past year I did an album with Joey Sommerville called Papa J Sez that’s set to release early next year. Yonrico Scott and I just started working on a record that should be out early next year that we will be touring behind as early as next year. Also, Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell from Tedeschi Trucks Band and I have been working on a record of mine that should be out later next year."
A Wish List, Who would like to collaborate with in the future?​
“Oliver Wood or Jim Lauderdale and... Willie Nelson. Stevie Wonder. Those are shooting  up there really high. Right now I’m Collaborating  with Cool Breeze. I’m helping him do a record. We’re doing a record, ‘Damn’ Ol’ Cool & The Dead Angle’  So y’all watch out.”​
For Tour Dates and Merch including the new album, head over to

The Jauntee & The Talismen Join Forces in Birmingham on Saturday August 20, 2019 18:59

Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Worlds are colliding in Birmingham on Saturday night as The Jauntee and The Talismen are teaming up for a big night at Zydeco. It's no secret that we keep a close eye on the jam scene's up-and-comers, and these are two bands we have had our eyes on for several years. Many will remember The Jauntee from their Friday night set at CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival last October. The Colorado-based quartet also made a stop in Birmingham with Twiddle last fall. They have been busy touring across the country in 2019, while performing alongside many of the most notable acts on the festival circuit. This band brings a super unique, eclectic vibe to any show, and we expect Saturday night to be no different.
The Talismen are wrapping up a busy summer which has allowed the band to tap into quite a few new markets. With successful outings in Atlanta, Athens, Savannah, and Mobile, it's clear that this young band is making major strides as they expand on their audience outside of Alabama. They are fresh off the release of their debut album, Jar Full of Something, which is quickly approaching 100,000 streams on Spotify. Rumor has it that they've been adding a bunch of new originals into the arsenal this summer. 
We had a chance to catch up with members of both bands to learn a little more about what they've been up to over the summer.. Check out the quotes below and make sure to plan accordingly as you think about your weekend plans. 
"It's been a busy summer for us thus far. We've had shows coast to coast and filled nearly all our weekends at home with local gigs in Colorado. It's been a lot of fun traveling the country this year and sharing our music with so many people. We're excited to wrap up Summer tour in Birmingham this weekend and look forward to sharing a Jaunt with our Southern family!"
Scott Ferber (drums) of The Jauntee
" It’s been a great summer thus far for us. We started this tour on May 31st in Atlanta and wrap it up next Saturday in Mobile. Throughout, we have grown closer as a unit, and we're all super excited about the new music we have released as well at the songs we have in the works. We are very grateful for the opportunities we have had to play in front of new crowds this summer."
Jack Anderson (bass/vocals) of The Talismen
Watch The Jauntee perform "One Too Many" here:
Watch The Talismen's music video for "Lawnchair" here:

Hog Days Spotlight: North Mississippi Allstars' Luther Dickinson August 12, 2019 12:55


Photos by Jean Frank Photography

Interview by Inge Hill: Druids Charity Club

We caught up with Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars on August 1st while he was on his way to a gig in St Louis, right on the familiar banks of the Mississippi River. The Allstars will be headlining the Third Annual Hog Days of Summer, with support by Dale Watson and Will Stewart. Hog Days will take place in the Union Station Train Shed in Montgomery, Alabama on August 17, 2019. The discussion got into community music, musical collaborations, hill country house parties, BBQ, his approach to recording albums, his intentions with the blues repertoire, country music influences, and mythology in blues music. This interview was conducted by Inge Hill for Live & Listen.

Click Here: Purchase Tickets to Hog Days of Summer

All right, the benefit of the day, as I think you know is a barbecue and Americana music festival in support of Hogs for the Cause. Y'all played at their event down in New Orleans last year with your North Mississippi Osborne project. As you know, the charity benefits the families of children afflicted with pediatric brain cancer. What does playing music for the community mean to you?

Luther: I think that playing community based music is a huge honor and a privilege. I always try to be on my best behavior when I'm playing for a community. You know, it's one thing when you're playing at a nightclub and your friends, family, and fans come out and see you. But when a community invites you in, it becomes totally about them, and it means a lot. I always try to show respect to the community, because it's a responsibility to entertain and to be kind. I think in a lot of ways music is a community service. I always take those situations very seriously.

You know, my favorite thing these days is when I see, like, a mother my age singing along with us. She's dancing and singing along with the kids with a baby on her hip. Then maybe the grandparents are back in the back on a lawn chair. Man, I love that! Cause that's the way we grew up. We grew up watching my dad and his friends play while we were just running around while we were little kids!

Multiple generations, all together in one room, having a good time!

Luther: Love it!

Speaking of that show New Orleans...what a great collaboration that was with Anders (Osborne): North Mississippi Osborne. What new perspectives did you gain through your collaborations with Anders on your music, anything?

Luther: Oh man, Anders has been a huge influence on my life and my art. He's like an older brother to us, and it's funny, as soon as we met and started playing music together, our orbits kept interspersing. We kept on bumping into each other, as we're in the same circle. Recently, we haven't been playing together as much. Our orbits have become much wider. But man I miss him, and I love Anders so much. Anytime to play music with Anders or just to talk to Anders. I cherish those opportunities. He's such a wise person and such a beautiful example of positivity and also shaping your life into what you want. He's been through so much, and he's so creative. He's a true force of nature. Watching him write is like a force of nature.

You know, Carl...we started playing with Anders, and Carl Dufrene was playing with Anders, and now Carl plays with us, cause Anders moved on to some other sounds and Carl just jumped right in with us seamlessly. Which is beautiful man. So we'll bring some Louisiana love to the gig no matter what!

So, hill country house parties are the stuff of legends. It seems I've heard that RL's (Burnside) and Junior's (Kimbrough) must have been among the most infamous. Can you tell us about any of those that you may have attended or played at as an aspiring musician, or what the vibe was like at those parties?

Luther: Oh yeah! Well first of all the traditions are alive and well man. We just played the 14th annual North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic, and Junior Kimbrough and his family were well represented and Burnside's family was well represented. We played, and people traveled from near and far to come play. I feel like it's one of those rural regional music traditions. It's a lot like New Orleans with the musical families. It's very syncopated and real heavy. Also, New Orleans music is good time music. It's party music, you know. It's celebratory music. It's not a downer, you know?

Absolutely. There must've been someone manning the barbecue pits. Did y'all ever get into any barbecue at those parties?

Luther: Oh yeah, yeah! Othar Turner...he was a Mississippi fife and drum musician. His annual gig that he held was a picnic, as he called it. It was all based on barbecue and illegal moonshine; selling illegal moonshine liquor, you know? Food, barbecue, moonshine, and corn liquor. Those things go hand in hand with the music. The music of Mississippi hill country is like, you know, screwed and chopped from Texas. There's psychedelic rock from San Francisco; the music reflects the culture and the culture's drinking some good stuff.

Absolutely, it's kind of a blend of a variety of flavors.

Luther: Hahaha, a variety of buzzes.

Right! I do see a comparison of barbecue in that you'll find different flavor, style, and intent across regions of both barbecue and the blues. One thing about the Mississippi blues that I find really unique is the vast difference in styles across regions, and even from one town to the next when you're driving across Mississippi. To what extent did you or does your intimate exposure to this kind of musical blues gumbo effect your approach to the craft today?

Luther: Oh totally. I mean everything I do is filtered through growing up. Not only with the music of my neighborhoods that I grew up in, but also my dad's music, you know? My dad (Jim Dickinson) was a great musician, great piano player, singer, songwriter, record producer. He loved roots music of all kind. Kind of like the Grateful Dead. He would take roots music and use it for framework for his improvisation. He might play a Chuck Berry song or a Bo Diddley song and just jam on it. We learned that from dad as well, you know? The thing about hill country music that we grew up with is rhythmic based more than harmonically heavy. So, we have fife and drum music or RL Burnside's, or Junior Kimbrough. Very drone based music. Very minimal chord changes; which made it sound modern and timeless in a weird way.

Like that drone, it almost reminds me of that persistent heat that you can almost like see radiating off the highway in the summer.

Luther: Yeah!

One common element across blues genres is a focus on the feeling over technical perfection. I know y'all record your albums live for the most part. Can you talk about that process a little bit?

Luther: Yeah, we do. Sometimes we layer tracks. That's a fun way to build songs in the studio, but our favorite thing to do is to capture a moment you know? Get a feeling, and we strive to get live vocals. We definitely strive to get live ensemble performances from the musicians. All of the solos are recorded live. All of the improvisations are live, and we're making improvisational roots music. Why would you dissect it to put it together? If you're making rap music, pop music, or commercial music, you know, go for it put together. We're trying to capture what we do night to night out on the road, you know?

So I know you take your role as caretaker to blues music very seriously, kind of protecting the repertoire, but it's clear to me that you don't mean that the music needs to be kept as this static entity like it's in a safe or anything. Can you tell me about your intention here in regards to your role with this vast catalog of blues music from the guys before you?

Luther: Yeah, well you know that comes. My dad was a song collector as a rock first generation rock n' roller and a folk musician. He loved to write songs, but he also just loved songs. He always said that your repertoire, whoever has the most obscure songs in the coffee house was the king of the coffee house in the folk days, you know? He loved good songs and reinterpreting good songs. I learned that from him, and he taught me so many songs. Then also growing up with Othar Turner, who would like teach me by hand, or we would sit on his front porch and just improvise and just make up songs. RL Burnside...he took me on the road in '97, and I just sat at his feet every night singing along. Then these guys teach you these songs by hand, and you owe it to them to pass it along, you know?

It's folk music. It's not disposable pop music. There's nothing the matter with that, you know? It's fun writing songs, making records you want, but when you're talking about folk music and the American art form of being a song spirit, it's important to pass 'em on. And what we like doing with the Allstars is reinterpreting old melodies with a new beat, you know, like making it more palatable and danceable. To me, it's the melody and the poetry that have to be protected. The rest, you can wrap 'em up however you like!

Right, if you bring more people into the fold, more power to you!

Luther: Yeah!

Okay, I like that answer a lot. So, the crossover of blues and country music is where we like to play as a festival. It's fascinating how country, blues, folk, and gospel interact converge and diverge. We were kind of talking about this earlier. The other two acts at Hog Days of Summer this year have stronger country leanings. Can you speak to any influences from from your music that leans more towards country that may have affected your style, basically country influences?

Luther: Well, there's definitely the more song oriented style. I didn't grow up playing country music. I didn't grow up listening to country music, but there's definitely elements of rural music in everything. I'm more of a folk singer than a country singer. You know what I mean? I think more of what we do is more like psychedelic folk rock than anything, you know? We're not a blues band or a country band. But what I love...I love the songs like Mississippi John Hurt and the Yodeling Brakeman Jimmie Rodgers. You know he was the first guitar player to sell a million records. Jimmie Rodgers, he was one of those guys that transcends the genre. I just like pretty songs. I like pretty melodies. I don't care what label you put on it.

Right, yeah we can get too much into labels sometimes these days.

Luther: Yeah, I'm really starting to think that all those labels are old fashioned in a way. There's all just products of trying to sell music and put them in bins, you know? Put names on them so they can be sold and be consumed. In this day and age, I think we should be more open minded. It's like...everything is so influenced by everything else now and the future generations are only going to become more so. I think we should abandon those labels.

I agree with you 100%. Okay moving on, I only have a few more questions here. This next ones a little more far out. I want to talk about the mythology behind this kind of music and the persistent symbolism we see. The south, as you know, is known for its storytelling but Mississippi kind of just seems like its on another level. Focusing on music and not the rich literary tradition we have: Casey Jones, the Sugar Man and the Clear Creek Bridge, and of course the Crossroads. We love all that stuff. Is there something in the water over there that creates such vivid stories and imaginations?

Luther: Yeah, that's a great question man! I think that maybe being slow to modernize in the last century is part of it. I just think it's a great tradition of story tellers. You know there's John Henry and Stagger Lee. There's lots of great folk heroes from all regions. You got Aces and Eights. You got the coward Jack McCall. You got folk stories from the Western pioneers, the cowboys!

So, yeah man those folk legends. It's two things that I've been fascinated with in the last ten years. In the last ten years, I've gotten to know the Grateful Dead repertoire from playing with Phil Lesh,! Robert Hunter was fantastic at expanding and adding to the American vernacular. You know, the American folksy road vernacular. It's been awesome to get to know Robert Hunters lyrics more and more. He's on par with Bob Dylan when it comes to the American folk mythology. It's the oral history, you know?

Yeah, I like how Robert Hunter doesn't paint a picture for you perfectly. He leaves a lot to your interpretation...

Luther: Yeah!

I can see that seems to fit with the southern mythology as well, where the details are a little sketchy and some of them might be true. Some of it is up to your imagination. It's all a little unclear.

Luther: Exactly, print the legend, haha.

Ah, yep. That's good stuff. Well you're driving into Saint Louis right now. It's got its own rich musical history. You're playing a gig on the banks of the Mississippi River. What were you listening to right now before I called you?

Luther: Oh man! I grabbed a stack of my dad's music to celebrate 10 years since his passing: August 15th. So I'll be listening to his records. I was listening to Ry Cooder's record Boomer's Story when you called. It was really good man, but I haven't listened to a lot of my fathers music since he passed. I really really enjoyed it today. When you mourn someone that you loved so much and collaborated with so much, the music is so close sometimes its been hard to listen to his music. So, it is really enjoyable today yeah.

Yeah he had a huge career, and I know it's a lot of material for you to listen in on. Like what he played on and produced himself.

Luther: Yeah man, we've all been so fortunate. He was fortunate. He grew up in Memphis in the 50's and later on went on to play on "Wild Horses" by the Rolling Stones and the Time Out of Mind record with Bob Dylan. He also produced The Replacements..just a wonderful career! Ry Cooder once again, all the Memphis rock n' rollers and folk music he grew up around. We're just so fortunate man. Like I said, we're so grateful to be granted the opportunity to play the music that we love. We couldn't do that without the support from people, man.

You've been doing something right, for a long time.

Luther: Trying, trying to do my best. That's all I can do!

Right, well I know your family is your rock, and I wanted to say that my wife and I are expecting a little girl in December, our first. Do you have any advice for us?

Luther: Oh, man! Well she'll lead you the way. She'll be the new boss. Just agree with your wife and try to be as easy as possible. Enjoy it! Make time for yourself to enjoy the time with the little ones, you know? It goes so fast, and it's so fun. Congratulations!

Thank you, sir! Yeah, Luther I'm gonna say this one more time, but we are so proud to have you on our stage. It's gonna be a good time in Montgomery, and I look forward to seeing y'all up there!

Luther: Thank you so much man for the support, I appreciate it. We look forward to it! Thank you man.

L&L Exclusive Premiere: "Roll It Back" with LUTHI August 6, 2019 19:35

Interview by Tiffany Clemons: Live & Listen

The funky septet that is LUTHI knows how to bring the party, and it’s a big one. “Boogie Circus” is the most colorful description of their sound so far. “We like the term Cumberland Funk too,” says frontman Christian Luthi, an homage to the river that flows through its Nashville home and a sound that blends the city's often under-appreciated musical history. What’s very evident in talking with (what they call) “The LUTHI Crew” is the shared passion for helping others let loose.

In anticipation of their new single, “Roll It Back,” that drops everywhere on Friday, August 9, (pre-save it on Spotify), we were recently able to catch up with Christian Luthi (lead) and Amber Woodhouse (sax, vocals, sparkly wardrobe) to ask a few questions. As a special bonus, we have the exclusive premiere of "Roll It Back" available for you to stream today! 

LUTHI has quite a crew. Tell us how LUTHI became who it is today, and if you could have any artist dead or alive join the crew, who would it be and why?

Christian / Amber: The band came together organically. We focused on finding incredible people who were also incredible players. It’s very difficult to choose just one artist, but Prince would be quite the experience!

You are no "Stranger" to being on the road, most recently with Moon Taxi. What are some things that you learned from touring with them, and what are you looking forward to most when you hit the road in a couple of months with Magic City Hippies?

Christian / Amber: Moon Taxi has a great fan base so it was cool having the opportunity to meet so many new fans face to face. We can’t wait to travel to new markets and make new friends and fans on our tour with Magic City Hippies as well. (Check out the recap from Moon Taxi’s NYE show with LUTHI and Sparkle City Disco)

Your new single “Roll It Back” drops on Friday, and I think everyone can agree that we grow up too fast. What inspired the song?

Amber: Inspired by his time hanging with his niece over Christmas, Christian wanted to write a song about how quickly we all grow up. He says, “When we’re young we want to be old and when we’re old we want to be young.”

When it comes to creating new music, what does that process look like for the LUTHI crew?

Christian / Amber: It generally starts with the kernel of an idea, whether it’s a lyrical concept or a melody. We get together as a team and focus on listening to each other's ideas. The synergy between the crew is what brings those ideas to life.

And speaking of new music, can we expect the full follow up to "Stranger" anytime soon?

Christian: We will be releasing various singles throughout the rest of the year, and we will be compiling all of them for a physical release in the near future.

I’ve been lucky enough to catch you live a handful of times, and it truly looks like you take off to another planet (in a good way!) when performing. It's clear that you love what you’re doing. What keeps you going night after night?

Christian / Amber: We all truly feel that we were put on this planet to play music, and we feel very blessed to do it alongside our closest friends. We know we’re better together. Also, the energy from our audience gives us new life every night. 

Catch LUTHI’s infectious energy on tour with Magic City Hippies this fall and a special Halloween show with Moon Taxi at Avondale Brewing Company in Birmingham, AL. Check out their full schedule and pre-save “Roll It Back,” streaming everywhere Friday, August 9, 2019.

Electric Blue Yonder Reflects on Recent East Coast Run July 3, 2019 15:57


Photo by Duncan O'Boyle

Interview by T-Bird: Staff Writer for Live & Listen

The band Electric Blue Yonder has been around for a handful of years, and has created a reputation for intimate songwriting showcases as well as raging shows in the River Region and beyond lately. We recently sat down with guitarist/vocalist Johnny Veres to discuss some of the most recent shows and plans for upcoming singles and a full-length album.

What is the lineup of the band?

Johnny: I’m Johnny Veres, I sing and play electric guitar. My wife Beth sings and plays acoustic. Russell Thomas Bush plays electric bass and upright, and Sam Pittinos plays drums as our core band, but sometimes we bring in other players and grow to the show. We also scale back to a 3 piece (upright, acoustic, and electric) so we can go from an intimate songwriter experience to a rocking show on the right stage. 

Electric Blue Yonder is fresh off a tour of the East Coast. Can you tell me about some of the highlights from that tour?

Johnny: This is tough. There’s a good story in every moment of the tour.

We started by playing in a cave at a bar called Rattle Snake Saloon, which was surreal in so many ways. We half expected the chicken wire screen across the stage but thankfully they sell draft beer in styrofoam cups. Our friend Jimmy Teardrop joined us for this and the Cloverdale concert series dates just before he set out on a tour with Alex Williams. He’s a monster guitar player. It was great to hear his take on some of our music.

We played a Sofar show in NoHo at this spot called Recess that sells “hemp infused sparkling water” and everything was neon pink and blue with cloud lights on the ceiling. It felt like that room was designed for our band.

Our Sunday show at Toad in Cambridge was maybe the most memorable. We played Boston the night before and had some time to explore, so I showed Beth and Russell some of our dear friend Andrew’s old stomping grounds and went to lunch at a restaurant he had taken me to years ago. We headed over to load into the venue without much expectations for a rainy Sunday evening, but were pleasantly surprised by a bustling crew of locals doing a record swap style party where folks brought their own records and took turns playing their favorite songs. It was rad. Everyone was so warm and welcoming, and suddenly it didn’t feel so dreary. We even ran into someone that plays bagpipe for a certain Boston based group.

On top of that we met Steve Morse, a long time contributor to music at the Boston Globe and current Rock History teacher at Berklee College of Music. Steve regaled us with old industry tales, a sharp wit, and as he put it “beer on NYT’s dime.” He also wrote us these words about our music:

"I went on a whim but became a devoted fan after seeing them. They played a meditative mashup of trippy folk-rock psychedelia, cut with a raw, Alabama flavor befitting their roots. Captivating harmony vocals and skilled, almost Nick Drake-like guitar fills complete the picture. Would love to see them again."

That one felt really good.

We caught up with an old friends in Philly, saw sprinkles of family, and other beautiful humans along the way. We also played maybe the most raucous show in Americus, Georgia with our good friend and Blues player, Neal Lucas. Small town shows are great because the people that attend really care and are excited to have guests in their city. We were described as “post punk beach boys” there as well, which we totally dig. EBY always feels the love there!

Lastly, we finished up in Tuscaloosa with a friend opening that just blew our socks off, Patrick O’Sullivan. Druid City Brewing is another spot that feels like family when you’re there.

Speaking of Tuscaloosa, you and Beth just played Black Warrior Songwriter Festival there this past weekend as well?

Johnny: We did. It was awesome to get to rep EBY in a format that we don’t often get to. We’ve been told that we’re like a star peg between a square and a round hole. We don’t quite fit in either, so sometimes it’s difficult to know where to place in festivals like these. These folks had an open mind and didn’t care about “genres” so I think we all had fun together. 

Do you have plans for a full-length album?

Johnny: We are working on our full length in the studio now and targeting an early fall release date.

Will it be pressed to vinyl or available to stream?

Johnny: We will definitely put it out on all digital media platforms, and vinyl will be in the future. We have our first vinyl single release coming out this summer so be on the look-out for that as well!

Do you have plans for single releases?

Johnny: There’s one more late summer before the album drops, and we just put out “Bluster” a few weeks back.

What platforms are you available on?

Johnny: All the digital ones!

When/where is your next tour planned?

Johnny: We are booking a run out to Oregon and back over September and part of October. If everything goes as planned, this will be a super special tour. If you want us to come to your town hit us up!

Do you have any shows coming up in your hometown of Montgomery, AL?

Johnny: Our next date in town is at Commerce Beer Works with Kyle Kimbrell 7/6 at 10pm (Doors at 9).

Stream Electric Blue Yonder's "Bluster" here:

One More Saturday Night with Dead & Company in Atlanta July 1, 2019 14:03


 Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Over the past fifty years, the city of Atlanta has played host to countless moments in Grateful Dead history. When looking back over the band’s illustrious career, it’s no surprise that tickets were in such high demand on Saturday night. The blazing summer heat was met with an equally hot ticket, as Dead & Company made their annual visit to Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood over the weekend. It’s always extra special returning to this venue for any Dead related project, as I experienced my first “Dead show” here on the Wave The Flag tour in 2004. While the roster has evolved and some songs might have a slightly different sound, the fact that we’re still able to gather and celebrate this music with nearly 20,000 people is truly remarkable.

When this band came together in the fall of 2015, many of us didn’t know what to think. The “Fare Thee Well” shows were a very recent memory, and I’m not sure that anyone ever expected to see John Mayer playing lead guitar alongside Bobby, Billy, and Mickey. What the Deadhead nation has witnessed since then has been nothing short of magical. The six-piece now has nearly five years under their belt, and Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti have proven to be the perfect combination for this interpretation of the Grateful Dead.

The band came out of the gate with guns blazing on Saturday night. “Scarlet Begonias” and “The Music Never Stopped” made for a beautiful pairing. “Alabama Getaway” proved to be one of the more rockin’ moments of the night. Weir has always done a phenomenal job with the Johnny Cash catalog, and “Big River” was certainly on point. It’s always a treat to hear “West LA Fadeaway,” even if D&C’s rendition is slowed down just a bit. Weir appeared the play the first few notes of “He’s Gone” before quickly aborting, switching guitars, and allowing Mayer to lead the way through a killer “Tennesee Jed.”  The first set would end just as strong as it started, as “Bird Song” worked its way in and out of “Loose Lucy” before coming back in full force.

The sun was finally starting to set, and the band returned to the stage after a lengthy set break. An extended jam eventually led us to “The Other One,” which would then segue into a surprising stand alone “Franklin’s Tower.” Mayer led the band through “Crazy Fingers” in impressive fashion. Any time I’m fortunate enough to hear the “Lady with a Fan” > “Terrapin Station” combo is a very special occasion. This particular performance was perfect in every way. They eventually made their way back to “The Other One” before unleashing Hart & Kreutzmann for “Drums” > “Space.” The rest of the band returned to stage and eventually hit the opening notes of “Althea,” the song which led Mayer to discover the Dead’s music. Weir then performed one of the more coveted Garcia ballads in “Standing on the Moon,” before “One More Saturday Night” ended the set in proper fashion.

After the “Scarlet Begonias” opener, many wondered if and when we would hear “Fire on the Mountain.” Fortunately, the band returned for the encore and Burbridge finally had his chance to shine on lead vocals. Walking out of the venue, I felt that familiar since of gratitude that can only be achieved by these unique musical journeys. While I was lucky enough to stumble across the Grateful Dead’s music at a young age, it was just after the passing of Jerry Garcia. The reality that I’m able to be a part of this experience so many years later is something I'll never take for granted. These are moments that I’ll cherish for as long as I live, and hopefully, there will be many more Grateful nights to come.

Exit/In Announces Tribute to Phish, Grateful Dead, & Allman Brothers June 26, 2019 12:08

Artwork by Cymonton Design
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Over the years, Nashville's Exit/In has played host to many of the biggest names in rock and roll. It's literally written all over the walls. Upon entering the venue, you'll quickly see the list of past performers listed above the main bar. Many will recognize acts such as Talking Heads, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Police, Johnny Cash, Dr. John, and R.E.M. The list goes on and on, and the vibe of this historic room is certainly felt from the moment you arrive. 
While the venue's calendar is impressive on any given night, one of their most recent announcements definitely has the local jam scene buzzing. On Saturday, July 6th, Exit/In will host the first edition of "The Jam Sessions," which will feature a massive cast from several of the southeast's finest. Expect to see a variety of collaborations throughout the night, as Travers Brothership focuses on the Allman Brothers Band catalog, Airshow jams on all of the Grateful Dead classics, and members of Maradeen, Todd Nance & Friends, and Loco Motives tackle the compositions of Phish. Appearances from members of Waker and Mother Funk are also expected throughout the night.
One would be hard pressed to find three bands with a greater impact on the American rock culture. The Dead, Allmans, and Phish have proven to have a tremendous influence on their fervent followers for decades, even after the losses of legends like Jerry Garcia, Duane Allman, Greg Allman, and multiple others who left us far too soon. We recently caught up with Kyle Travers of Travers Brothership and Whit Murray of Maradeen to learn a little more about what this occasion means to them.
"The Allman Brothers were one of our main influences in the beginning of our career, so i'ts always a pleasure to pay them tribute. We are really excited to be apart of this show with so many of our friends, many of them play in bands that play original music like Travers Brothership, so this is going to be a fun unique experience for all of us." - Kyle Travers of Travers Brothership
"We’ve all grown up studying Phish’s music and have seen more of their shows than any other band but have never embarked on performing an entire set. What has always attracted me to Trey’s playing is his unique style of creating melodies that the band and audience can latch onto and inspire a feeling of universal connectivity. This is going to be a rare and special occasion and we’re excited to take part along with some of our favorite musical cohorts." - Whit Murray of Maradeen
We advise you to expect the unexpected at this show. With the musicians on hand and the endless options of these three catalogs, this is sure to be a special occasions with all kinds of surprises. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased for $10 in advance by clicking here. Stay tuned for further information and details on this special occasion! 
Watch Travers Brothership perform The Allman Brothers Band's "Black Hearted Woman" here:

Navigating the New Orleans Heart with Mike Doussan May 31, 2019 10:18

Interview by Brett Hutchins:

What does it mean to be New Orleans? The city’s magnetic pull will forever grip outsiders, but what’s it like to survive as a native son, steeped in a scene brimming with free thinkers and constant communal revelry?

For roots rocker Mike Doussan, it means finding purpose.

Raising a family and the suicide of his brother forced his hand in finding his, but through the mentorship of his drummer son August and his focused work on mental health, it’s obvious that this is a musician determined to make his work matter.

It’s a busy week for Doussan, with the release of his new record Yesterday’s Troubles and release parties at The Maple Leaf in New Orleans and Paradise Bar on Pensacola Beach. Luckily, he was able to squeeze us in to chat about his new focus, the necessity of honesty in songwriting, and the camaraderie of the New Orleans music scene.

Mike Doussan’s story is intrinsic to the human condition. There’s pain and pleasure, grit and grace, but much like the city of New Orleans and music itself, true beauty rises from chaos. His songs are proof.

When did you start playing and why?

Mike: I started playing guitar when I was 8. My dad played and I remember always loving when he plugged in and cranked up his Strat through his Peavy Stereo Chorus 212. One day I asked him to teach me and that was it. I never looked back. I remember the first lick he taught me was the signature lick from Derek and the Dominos “Layla.” I was hooked after that.

What was the a-ha moment of knowing you could make this a full-time gig?

Mike: I was 23 or 24 when I started getting out into the clubs and sitting in with bands around New Orleans. Eric Lindell was one of the cats I would sit in with and we became pretty close. We both lived in Algiers Point so it was easy for us to get together and jam, or walk the dogs, or hit the local bars for the happy hour drink specials and free mini tacos. One day he called me up to play an acoustic duo gig with him on a boat. I agreed and loaded up my guitars in his purple PT Cruiser to head to the gig. We ended up in the parking lot of the Empire boat launch, a long ways away from where I had imagined this gig would be, and when we arrived, he informed me we wouldn’t be needing the guitars.

At this point I was a little nervous, but went along without question. We boarded a shrimp boat and idled out into the bay under the late night sky. After hauling in the nets after the third drop, sorting through hundreds of shrimp, and a handful of beers, I asked Eric why he told me we had a gig only to take me shrimping. He said, “I took you out here to get you away from everything you know and tell you to quit your job and play music.” About 6 weeks later, I quit my job in construction and started booking my band full time.

Talk about the grind of the New Orleans music scene. It seems like there is a balance in the city between musical camaraderie and healthy competition for gigs.

Mike: I’ve never felt competition in the New Orleans scene. From day one I was welcomed by well-seasoned musicians to share their stages.  I still feel that same camaraderie and I feel it’s my duty to extend that camaraderie to the younger cats coming up in the scene.

Compare being a songwriter to being a sideman. Is it easier to throw all of yourself out there when it’s stuff you’ve written?

Mike: I believe my passion for playing doesn’t discriminate between my own songs or someone else’s. Of course, I may have a stronger connection to something I’ve written, but I like to put all I have into everything I do.

With the new record, has it been a conscious effort to move to a more folky Americana style and if so what prompted that?

Mike: For my last two records, Sin or Salvation and Yesterday’s Troubles, I’ve made a conscious effort to let the songs be what they are. I’m not trying to fit in any genre. A lot of my writing comes out with a kind of folky feel to it, which I think is natural to a guy writing with an acoustic guitar, but I have so many different influences that are showcased on these last two records, you’d be hard pressed to fit it in a box.

What’s the secret to balancing family life with the rock and roll?

Being present. You have to be present for both the family and the music. It gets tough at times, but you can’t phone either of them in. They both deserve everything you have to offer. I couldn’t do it without my wife, Maggie, who has been so understanding and supportive of what’s demanded of me as a musician. And my kids are supportive too. It’s important to me to be able to show them that you can follow your dreams and do what you want to do to make a living.

What’s it like watching your son August grow as a drummer?

Mike: Watching August grow as a drummer has been a trip. He has such a natural, round pocket. Doug Belote, who is the drummer on Yesterday’s Troubles, compared him to Jim Keltner (Traveling Wilburys, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan.) It’s funny hear such high praise directed towards a 7 year old, but he backs it up behind the kit. He’ll be sitting in with us on the Paradise Inn Release Parties in Pensacola Beach.

If he only had one drummer he could listen to to learn from, who would it be?

Mike: He’s sleeping now and feel that I can’t answer that for him.

Whether it’s being so involved with August or your work with mental health after your brother’s suicide, it seems like you’ve tapped into the higher power of music. Was there a specific point when you realized your music had the potential to do something important?

Mike: It started before both August’s birth and my brother’s death. I remember hearing the Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker record and being blown away by the honesty in his songwriting. That record influenced some of the writing for Sin or Salvation. Over the years, I’ve tried to harness that brutally honest approach and hone my craft to reflect that. It just so happens that August was born and Brett died on the journey. Those experiences have definitely led to deeper thought and expression. The song has been such an important part of my therapy and I’m lucky to be able to express myself in such a universal art form. I know there are a lot of people out there suffering, and for some, a song might be the only thing they can relate to, so I try to include messages of hope in my music, and hope is what the theme of the new record is all about. Yesterday’s Troubles are gone.

When it comes to mental health, how does music help us?

Mike: Music can help us in so many ways! A song from our youth can remind us of good times, or certain people or places, and bring up happy memories. It can also help us grieve hardships or losses in our lives by allowing us to connect to a songwriter that has experienced similar pain. Being able to write songs that I can channel my experiences through and have them mean something to others is something I will forever be grateful for.

What unique challenges does the typical musician face in staying healthy mentally?

Mike: A lot of musicians, like most artists, face so many factors daily that can make it a struggle to stay mentally healthy. For one, the typical pay for a musician is pretty low. That alone can lead to a poor diet, less than adequate housing, lack of health insurance, etc. Being constantly in a bar scene can lead to increased alcohol consumption which is a well known depressant. It’s also common for drugs to run in the same circles as musicians.

There’s also the possibility of rejection that we face daily. A lot of gigs that you are basically forced to take to make ends meet are for crowds that could care less if you are there playing music or not. So you’re over there in the corner, playing your heart out, trying to make some sort of connection with just one person in the room and there’s not so much as a golf clap at the end of your songs. When you combine all of these factors with drugs and alcohol used as coping tools, it’s very easy for a musician’s mental health to deteriorate quickly.

Stream Mike Doussan's new album Yesterday's Troubles here:

Purchase Mike Doussan’s new record ‘Yesterday’s Troubles’ at starting Friday, May 31st.

Hog Days of Summer Will Feature North Mississippi Allstars & More May 23, 2019 10:11

Design by Yellow Hammer Creative

Press Release via Druids Charlity Club

Headlining the 3rd Annual Hog Days of Summer, Druids Charity Club pleased to introduce a band that probably needs no introduction around these parts: North Mississippi Allstars. A mainstay on the southern circuit and beyond for more than two decades, this marks their first return to Montgomery, AL since 2001.

The core of North Mississippi Allstars (NMAS) are brothers Cody (drums, piano, synth bass, programming and vocals) and Luther (guitar and vocals) Dickinson; today they are joined by bassist Carl Dufresne. Founded in 1996, the venerable NMAS embody the longstanding blues tradition of multigenerational music craftsmanship, in their case having learned the magic from their father, the highly regarded Memphis-based musician and producer Jim Dickinson, and their community at large. "We have always identified with other second and third generation artists," says Cody and to be sure North Mississippi Allstars have long allied with the families of Hill Country icons like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough via countless barbeques, tours, collaborations, and good old-fashioned parties.

All of this is to say: this music wasn’t learned- it’s in their blood. Originating in the eponymously-named region in northern Mississippi, the Hill Country Blues sound is distinct from perhaps the more well-known product coming out of the neighboring Delta. Fueled by corn liquor and incubated in heat, it’s punctuated by a focus on percussion, relentless groove, and an underlining rhythmic trance delivered via humming electric guitar. Influential artists such as the electric guitar trendsetting ‘Mississippi’ Fred McDowell, the punchy and groovy R.L. Burnside, and the uber-hypnotic Kimbrough, all demonstrate the key ingredients of this foot-stomping blues sound through their own distinct styles.

It is true that NMAS is deeply steeped in American blues and roots tradition, but they have been increasingly exploring more modern electronic and programming influences, particularly on their last two records. As ever, their latest album, Prayer for Peace, sees the Allstars putting their indelible stamp on classic blues numbers and folk traditionals, including McDowell's classics "61 Highway" and "You Got To Move," while also further delving into some more modern takes such as the electronica they injected into R.L.’s “Long Haired Doney.”

"I think it's our responsibility to the community that brought us up to protect the repertoire," Luther says. "To keep the repertoire alive and vibrant. That's what folk music is about. It's an oral history of America. My dad and his friends, they learned from Furry Lewis and Gus Cannon and Will Shade and then taught those songs to us. It's important for us to write songs and experiment and do other things, but playing our community's music in a modern way is what Cody and I do best. I think it's what we were meant to do." True as always to the blues tradition, North Mississippi Allstars use the basic structures taught to them as the starting point for improvisation and contemporary interpretation, jumping off points for exploration.

Looking at life beyond completion of Prayer for Peace, Luther says: "Now it's time to hit the road. Get to work and spread the word. We recorded this one in the spirit of our twentieth anniversary. Now we're looking towards our twenty-fifth. Twenty years is alright but twenty-five is monumental." Cody shared a similar forward-looking sentiment "This is a new beginning for North Mississippi Allstars. This revitalizing cascade of creativity and explosion of music, it's just been incredible. And I feel like we're just getting started. There's a long beautiful road ahead of us. We're only just now hitting our stride." This set will truly be a special treat, both to the casual blues/roots/Americana music lover; and to those of us who have been watching this dynamic act flourish the past couple of decades.

Watch North Mississippi Allstars perform "Rollin 'n Tumblin" here:

Dale Watson and His Lone Stars

- Austin, Texas - 

Dale Watson, keeper of the true country music flame, carries on in the tradition of many before him, yet his sound is all his own. The Alabama-born, Texas-raised Watson is one of the hardest working (and colorful!) entertainers today and is rapidly approaching legendary status. He is a member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame, a country music maverick,  and a true outlaw who stands alongside Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and George Strait as one of the finest country singers and songwriters out of the Lone Star State. Dale and his ace touring band, “His Lone Stars” are on an exalted list of acts today consistently playing ‘real’ country both live and in the studio.

Unhappy with existing labels, he created the term “Ameripolitan” to distinguish his brand of American roots music from the more pop-oriented sound coming out of Nashville. This style combines a unique blend of western swinghonky-tonkrockabilly and outlaw country into the sound that you hear today. Dubbed "the silver pompadoured, baritone beltin', Lone Star beer drinkin', honky-tonk hellraiser" by The Austin Chronicle, Watson has shined on the late-night circuit (Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman), performed on NPR, and logged numerous performances on Austin City Limits. A veteran touring artist and consummate entertainer, he is on the road more than 300 days a year and has released somewhere north of 30 albums (we lost count).

His musical journey began right out of high school as he started playing clubs and local honky-tonks around Texas. In 1988, it led him to move to Los Angeles. He played in the house band at the legendary Palomino Club in Hollywood for a couple years and recorded some singles before moving to Nashville to write songs for a publishing company. Commercial country did not fit the fiercely independent songwriter, so Dale relocated to Austin, Texas where he got a record deal and began to really find himself as a songwriter and performer. His life has taken more twists and turns than the Rio Grande since then, and he rumbles into the shed today - firing on all cylinders - ready to sweep everything in his path along a journey into the very essence of good-time country music.

 Watch Dale Watson perform "I Die When I Drink" here:

Will Stewart

- Birmingham, Alabama (via Montgomery) -

Originally hailing from Montgomery, Stewart now calls Birmingham home. He'd been away from Alabama for a few years, living in Nashville while earning his stripes as a songwriter, frontman, and lead guitarist. He gained valuable perspective while away, but still, something kept drawing him down South. He'd grown up here, surrounded by the twang of classic country music and the stomp of rootsy rock & roll. Alabama was a complicated place, its history filled with dark characters and cultural clashes, but it was oddly compelling, too. It was home. Unable to resist the pull, Stewart returned to Birmingham. There, after a decade away, he rediscovered his muse: the Modern South, whose characters, complexities, open spaces, and strange beauty are all channeled into Stewart's full-length solo debut, County Seat, a guitar-fueled Americana record, caught somewhere between the worlds of country and electrified rock.

Stewart adds his own perspective to eternal themes of Life, whether it be the musings of a lonely man in his twilight years, the longing for the wonder and innocence of young boundless adulthood, or the realization and acceptance of one’s nebulous existence while confronting and coping with one’s own vices. Sure, there is a passionate yearning in his music, as he explores the mysteries and murkiness of the 21st century South, but an undercurrent of hope is always flowing beneath the surface, punctuated by familiar electrified crescendos and timeless pedal steel guitar righteousness. When Stewart is on stage you’ll perhaps feel the presence of an old friend who’s been away for a while…perhaps there’s something different in the air you can’t explain, but the feeling just feels like…home.

Watch Will Stewart's music video for "Sipsey" here:

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Elaine Cole Releases Debut Single "Blame It on the Roses" May 20, 2019 23:17

Elaine Cole recently debuted her first independent single, “Blame It on the Roses”. This sort-of love ballad, or tune of trial was written entirely by Elaine, and recorded with the acclaimed John Mailander (fiddle), Cory Walker (banjo), Jake Stargel (guitar); mastered by Austin Lee, all in their hometown of Nashville, TN.

Elaine Cole (born Rachel Paschket) began her musical career as a child, singing in church choirs and music camps in her hometown of Franklin, Tennessee. Shortly after moving to southern California as an adolescent, Elaine's vocal abilities recieved recognition in the forms of a Macy Award as well as an Outlook Award, both for best overall vocal performance, as a result of vigorous theater and vocal trainings.

After spending early high school years studying in a musical theater environment at OCHSA, Elaine took her musical knowledge and applied to her southern roots. This bred a rabid appreciation for bluegrass and roots music, prompting her to join The Stolen Faces, where she would recreate the vocal abilities of Donna Jean Godchaux in a touring Grateful Dead tribute.

From singing with Elizabeth Cooke, Allen Thompson, and Todd Snyder, to starting her own band with Bradley Rosen (The Stone Hollers), Elaine has followed her passion of delving into the Americana. Elaine released her first solo original effort, "Wait For Rain EP" in August 2017. She is now working towards her newest solo effort, "Blame It on the Roses", a single produced with the help of some friends.

Stream "Blame It on the Roses" here:

Circles Around The Sun Proves the Hype is Real in Atlanta May 9, 2019 19:50

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Ryan Lewis: Rylewphoto
Last night in Atlanta was an experience I had been anxiously awaiting for nearly four years. Like many of you, I was completely mesmerized when it came time for setbreak at the infamous Grateful Dead "Fare Thee Well" shows in 2015. What is usually a time for heading to the bathroom, grabbing a cold beverage, and counting the minutes until the band's return was a far different experience. We would later learn that Justin Kreutzmann, the son of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, was in charge of visual effects. The production team would play unreleased, archived footage and psychedelic montages on giant screens, and Kreutzmann looked to guitarist Neal Casal to create an instrumental soundtrack for these visuals. 
Casal quickly called on Adam MacDougall (keyboards), Dan Horne (bass), and Mark Levy (drums) and formed a band. With very little time to prepare, the band went into the studio with no pre-written material. I had the opportunity to interview Neal several months ago, and he explained, " We just tried to imagine the kind of music that we would want to hear if we were at a Grateful Dead show and hanging out at intermission. So we just imagined it and made it up on the spot. Just improvising a bunch of music over the course of two days. We got very lucky in the fact that people liked it."
The music was so well received that Casal decided to pursue this as a long term project, which was ultimately named Circles Around The Sun (aka CATS). The Fare Thee Well recordings were released as Interludes For The Dead in November of 2015, and the band would perform their first public show at LOCKN' Festival in 2016. With each band member being involved in various other projects, such as Chris Robinson Brotherhood, tour dates were initially few and far between. Fortunately, we've seen the number of dates increase drastically over the past year. 
Wednesday night was the band's first true headlining show in Atlanta. Earlier this year, CATS performed to a sold out crowd at The Tabernacle in support of Greensky Bluegrass, and the local buzz was more than noticeable last night. Terminal West was about as packed as I've ever seen it, and the show must have been about as close to a sell out as possible. The unique lighting arrangement and multiple disco balls on stage set the tone for an incredibly wild musical journey.
As the band took the stage, an extended, spacey jam ultimately made way for "On My Mind," the opening track from their sophomore album, Let it Wander. I can't think of a much better way to get the room moving. It didn't take 10 minutes to realize that this was going to be a special night. "Gilbert's Groove" gave us our first taste from the Interludes album. It's truly remarkable how Casal has mastered the Garcia-esque licks. We got another taste of the new album in the form of "Halicarnassus." This one featured some of my favorite moments from MacDougall, and I cant say enough about the rhythm section here. When Mark Levy finds a pocket, he absolutely locks in and couldn't appear to be happier doing so. Dan Horne is an absolute monster on bass, and watching these two's interactions throughout the night was one of my biggest takeaways from the show. 
Midway through the set, we saw a glimpse of what the future holds in one of CATS' newest originals, "Peace." While Let it Wander remains in steady rotation around the house, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxiously awaiting more new material from this band. Another monstrous jam vehicle has surfaced, and it's safe to say that there is much more coming. MacDougall led the way on "Immovable Object," which is easily one of the most soothing, peaceful tunes you will find. The slow, groovy build makes way for some blistering guitar work from Casal. This is another one that could easily be mistaken as a Jerry Garcia Band original. Casal's technique and overall tone is uncanny. 
Before this monster set came to an end, the band busted into "Saturday's Children," another Interludes track. I like to think that this tune is the lovechild of "West LA Fadeaway" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy." Levy keeps the beat nice and tight, while Casal hits those riffs that just put a big smile on your face. I found myself laughing on countless occasions at this point. That's when you know it's good. After a brief exit, CATS returned with time for one more. I'd been waiting for this one all night, and thankfully, Levy kicked straight into the intro for "One for Chuck." If I had a nickel for the amount of times I've played this song in 2019, I'd have a hell of a lot of nickels. "Chuck" showcases my absolute favorite moments from MacDougall's wizardry, and this epic musical journey couldn't have ended on a higher note. 
There's only so much you can put into words when it comes to this band. The music is perfect for any occasion. Whether you're looking to relax and unwind, or maybe even hit the dance floor, Circles Around the Sun has you covered. My expectations heading into Terminal West could not have been much higher, and they were exceeded in every way. The ceiling is incredibly high with these CATS, and I'll be making every effort to catch them on the road whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Watch a clip of CATS performing "One for Chuck" here:

Big Friendly Takeover Tour Kicks off Friday at Avondale Brewery May 8, 2019 12:15


Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Three of Alabama's hottest rising acts will join forces at Birmingham's Avondale Brewing Company on Friday night. Winston RambleLittle Raine Band, and Taylor Hunnicutt will kick off what is sure to be a special tour, which also includes stops in Asheville (NC), Atlanta (GA), Montgomery (AL), and Mobile (AL). These three bands are certainly no strangers to one another, as their roots run deep across the greater Birmingham area. Based on what we've seen in the past, we should expect numerous collaborations throughout all three sets. 

This has been a busy year, to say the least, for all three of these bands thus far. Winston Ramble continues to draw impressive crowds across the southeast, while having recently completed multiple successful runs out to Colorado. Their most recent single, "1000 Miles," alludes to the band's increasingly busy tour schedule and is more than worthy of an addition to your latest playlist. Back in early March, Little Raine Band released Dreamwalker, their first full length album since 2016. As expected, they have been grinding across the southeast in support of the release, which is one of our favorites of 2019. You can check out a detailed review of the entire album by clicking hereTaylor Hunnicutt has been one of Birmingham's brightest rising stars in recent years, and she sure seems bound to break out in 2019. You simply can't look away when she starts singing, and her "supporting cast" is as strong as any. Click here to check out her latest feature on

Click Here: Purchase tickets to the Avondale Brewery show!

As an added bonus, Friday night's show in Birmingham will feature an opening set from Atlanta's Bird Dog JubileeIf you're planning on heading over to the brewery, you definitely don't want to miss these guys. If that wasn't enough, you can walk across the street to Saturn and catch LUTHI, The Pearl, and Dirty Lungs immediately after the music ends at the brewery. Long story short: Avondale is the place to be on Friday night.

We took a few minutes to chat with members of Winston Ramble and Little Raine Band to learn more about their vision for this tour. See below for a few quotes from the conversation. Click here to purchase your tickets to see all three bands on Friday night in Birmingham.

There’s nothing quite like playing music on the road with people you love. We’re all close friends and love making music together, so this is kind of like a family vacation in a way.. We’ve thrown around this idea for a while now and it’s awesome to see it finally come into fruition. There’s really no telling what you could expect from this tour, we have some fun surprises in store, other than that we know it’s going to get rowdy! Davis Little of Little Raine Band

"This run has been a long time coming, and I know we're all excited to make it happen. We've been lucky enough to share the stage with each other many times The Avondale show was so much fun last year, and we had to take it on the road. If I could pick any bands to travel and play with, it'd be these two. We love the music these two bands make and love the people who make it. Expect a show full of a many genres, original music, re-imagined covers, and collaborations. It'll be a damn good time." - Justin Oliver of Winston Ramble

Check out the official promo video for the BFT tour here:

Universal Sigh Releases New Single "Snow Dunes" May 3, 2019 09:51

Athens, GA - Metamorphic rock band Universal Sigh released a new single "Snow Dunes" on Tuesday, April 30th. This upbeat track features lively guitars and reminiscent lyrics inspired by the might of nature and the wisdom of hindsight. It was recorded with producer Tomas Uribe in several studios around Atlanta, GA. "Snow Dunes" marks the first studio release from Universal Sigh in three years and is the initial of several releases on the horizon in 2019.

Universal Sigh maintains a busy touring schedule averaging over 100 shows per year and will celebrate the release of “Snow Dunes” with a headlining appearance at Aisle 5 in Atlanta, GA on May 3rd following the Shaky Knees Music Festival.

Additionally Universal Sigh curates and hosts their own 2-Day Music and Arts festival called “Sigh In July” in Athens GA. The multi-day event showcases national, regional, and local talent to inspire consciousness and foster musical community. The 5th Annual Sigh in July will take place at Live Wire Athens on July 26th & 27th.

We recently sat down with Universal Sigh guitarist Pace Maynard to get the inside scoop on all of the band's latest happenings. See below for look into our conversation!
  • "We have had a lot of fun working in the studio over the past 6 months. Our band has toured non-stop for several years now, and it's been refreshing to take a step back from performing to focus on the studio process. "Snow Dunes" was recorded in two Atlanta area studios: Prana Studio in Lilburn and Emanant Studio in Ackworth. Our producer Tomas Uribe, has been an amazing guide throughout our journey. His input has been invaluable, and we have developed an endearing personal and professional relationship."
  • "Tomas fronts an excellent band called Kilroy Kobra based in Atlanta. We had an overwhelming amount of unrecorded material to choose from for these sessions, but we opted to release "Snow Dunes" first for a couple of reasons. We feel it highlights different facets of our sound, and it has historically been one of our most played songs in the live setting." 
  • "We plan to release another single in July and intend to drop our sophomore album this fall. Nothing is set in stone though. Hopefully, we can get back into the studio this winter to start working on our next project if time allows." 
  • "The band is incredibly excited to get back on stage in Atlanta. We love Aisle 5 and the last time we played it was a sold-out new years eve show with Funk You. This time we invited our longtime friends and fellow Athenians Partials to open up the show. They are fantastic and we are working on some collaborations that I'm sure the audience will enjoy."
  • "Additionally, we are going to do something on Friday that we've never done before. At 10:00 PM, directly before the music begins, we will kick off the festivities by screening a short film that features members of Universal Sigh, Partials, and fellow Athens, GA band The Orange Constant. The mini-documentary is titled "Homegrown" and focuses on our experience hosting Sigh in July, our annual music and arts festival. It was produced by Guilty Peach Productions along with some of our best friends. We've never done a film premiere before so come celebrate our single release this Friday and bring some popcorn." 

Steam Universal Sigh's "Snow Dunes" here:



Official Bio: Universal Sigh

Universal Sigh is set for high gear in 2019 and beyond. Their unique “metamorphic rock” compositions are rooted in quintessential groove that delves into an epic, cinematic, psychedelic jazz journey. Their soulful melodies reflect peaks and valleys of emotion and their harmonious improv sparks fascination in their listeners. This year will be a very productive year for the band boasting several single debuts and the release of the band's second full-length album.

Based out of Athens, GA these southern rockers have been bringing the heat across the country since 2013. In the past 2 years, the band has shared the stage with Leftover Salmon, Papadosio, Twiddle, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Spafford, The Main Squeeze, The Werks, Aqueous, Naughty Professor, The Jauntee, Cycles and more. The quartet regularly tours between the southeast and Colorado and produce their annual Sigh in July Music & Arts Festival every summer.

The band name Universal Sigh signifies a common thread that links everyone to life – the breath. Music, like breath, provides connection, awareness, and brings you into the present moment. Each breath and song is a simple reminder that we are all connected and reliant on each other in this journey through life.

Nostalgia vs. the Now: 25 Years with The String Cheese Incident April 30, 2019 10:44

Photo by Dylan Langille: ontheDL Photography

Interview by Brett Hutchins:

Ten years ago, The String Cheese Incident took a chance on me.

As naive senior at Florida State, the dread and uncertainty of post-graduation was met with one sure thing - my absolute need to be involved in music. Resumes flew out to damn near every record label, booking agency, and publicity firm in the country.

One returned the email.

A day after graduation, I made the trek from Tallahassee, FL to Boulder, CO for an internship at SCI Fidelity Records. I was quickly rocketed into a world gloriously foreign to me, where all are welcome and the most different of people and styles are free to come together. The music of the String Cheese Incident did for me what it has done for people around the world and even the band members themselves. It forged seemingly impossible connections through the simple act of being open to adventure.

Bassist Keith Moseley chats here about the band’s 25 years, the communal spirit behind the band and its fans, and how the city of New Orleans inspires the band in front of this week’s JazzFest after-parties. It’s a conversation that points to the immense ways that music can transcend time and boundaries of all kinds.

Congrats on the 25th anniversary. Do you feel old?

Keith: Every day. It’s a serious milestone to reflect on and live with the fact that we’ve been a band for 25 years. We’re beating the odds and all staying healthy. I feel like we are making the best music ever together, too. It’s a special feeling.

I’ve read a lot of interviews where you speak about staying in the moment. How do you keep focused on that when there is so much nostalgia in the air this year?

Keith: The moment on stage? Part of being present with the band is how much new material we’ve written and recorded in the last few years. It feels like the band is going through a renewed sense of growth. To execute those songs onstage, you really have to be mindful and present. There’s no auto-pilot when you’re playing brand new songs. You have to remain super engaged up there in trying to play them the best you can.

Your music has created life-changing memories for thousands of folks. How does the band avoid the pressure of feeling like they need to replicate past experiences for some of their veteran fans?

Keith: There is definitely some expectation of the band every time we hit the stage. Some of that results in pressure to live up to the past, but we view it more as a responsibility to our fans and our past than pressure. This band, the music we make, and this scene we curate is big and important, more so than any one of us. It’s showing up and playing your role in this bigger thing. It’s all encompassing in that way. Sometimes you get that liftoff where the whole physical experience can take on importance for people.

When you guys were playing ski bars in the beginning, was there ever any thought into how big this could be?

Keith: It was hard to see how big it could go. 25 years and traveling worldwide with this music is a big deal. It’s hard to imagine, although the connection was very real on a smaller scale. We did get to those points of playing music quickly in those small bars. It got magical quickly. Getting that feeling and knowing we’re doing something emotional and powerful is a unique experience. Getting into those moments of absence is a special place I like to get to whenever I can.

I’ve chatted about Cheese with strangers in as faraway lands as Thailand. The community truly is worldwide. What makes your fans so special?

Keith: Our fans in general are an open-minded adventurous spirit as a group. They’re open to our wild palate of music and diverse ideas. That’s the type of people I want to hang out with.

Are there things the guys do, either musically or otherwise, that surprise you even after all this time?

Keith: Musically, we’re so familiar with each other, but surprises do still happen. I feel really fortunate to play with such amazing and spirited fellows. They’re a great group and it’s always an adventure. Personally, it’s fun, too. We’ve all been friends for a long time. Travis starting a family was a big surprise. We didn’t see that coming. But as an example, that’s been an amazing growth experience for him and it’s brought a lot of joy to his playing.

How organic is the current writing process? I’d imagine it helps a ton having your own studio space.

Keith: The Sound Lab has really gotten our focus and writing in place. We can come directly off the road and everything’s already set up to go. It’s been super inspiring. The process of writing is different for everyone. Lots of times we get together and band mates bring in songs that are complete or nearly complete. It’s just a matter of how we are going to put our group touch on it. Other times, it’s a group writing process where we’ve got a jam or a groove we’ve played before and want to revisit to build into an actual song.

It’s nice to have a studio space where we can come together and not be on the clock. It sure beats paying tons of money to be put on deadlines and have songs put together in x-amount of time. It helps us to be able to spread out the process between the writing and then shift into rehearsal head space.

Photo by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

How has family life and time passing in general affected the band’s songwriting?

Keith: Where you’re coming from in life is always going to have a big effect on your output when you’re writing. A lot of us are feeling mature in a lot of ways these days, with kids leaving home and moving on. Some of the guys have younger kids. Different chapters in your life affect songwriting in different ways. When there is a deeper well to draw from, it’s bound to yield positive results. That well gives you time to reflect and comment based on things you’ve seen. I’m excited about the material the band’s putting out. We’re still getting better and that alone is super exciting.

Are there any surprising lessons you’ve learned from music that you take into your everyday life?

Keith: Not many surprising, but lessons continue to reveal themselves, the most basic being that what you get out of it is a reflection of what you put into it. That remains true on so many levels.

What goes into preparations for shows these days with the weekend runs?

Keith: We’ll usually try to come up with a setlist before the run and pass that along via email to give everyone a chance to throw their input in. We’ll have a little time to prep on it and then we’ll rehearse and try to go over some of the stuff we haven’t hit in a long time or rehash the newer tunes. We have been rehearsing a lot though, which has been fun. There’s a lot of pre-planning, but there is always the chance we might ditch the setlist or call an audible here and there.

Does the time in between shows make it more difficult to build more momentum into the improve spaces?

Keith: That’s a continuing discussion with the band. Was it better when we were on the road playing five, six nights a week? The band certainly gets into a unique space when you’re doing intensive touring. Just by the virtue of all that time together, you get to a different space in the playing.

The flipside is that it can be a burnout being out for long stretches. Attacking things like we are right now gives us time to come in refreshed and looking forward to the gig, plus giving us rehearsal time at home. There are pros and cons of every way of doing these things.

The crowd comes in fresh and excited, as well.

Keith: Yeah, people are pumped to come to New Orleans. We had a big weekend in St. Louis after not being there in forever. It’s been a great run of shows this Spring, and I think we’re on a great trajectory.

I’ll be shooting over for those New Orleans shows. How will the shows with guests be structured? Full shows? Full sets? Just a few songs?

Keith: Just a few songs most likely.

What’s the communication like with these guests beforehand?

Keith: We’ll have a point person in the band assigned to each guest. They’ll reach out and get an idea of the tunes they can do, and then we’ll have some rehearsal with them day of show.

You guys have a pretty cool history with New Orleans all the way back to the early days. What makes New Orleans so special for the band?

Keith: We’ve all just been attracted to the vibe of the city and the musical richness of the city for a really long time. Before I had ever been to New Orleans, I was fan of its music. The Meters, the Neville Brothers, Dr. John.

We did some early gigs at the Maple Leaf mid to late 90s. It’s such a small room, but it was awesome soaking up the vibe. We’d see as many shows as we could see as well. I have great memories of seeing a late night Gatemouth Brown show. CJ Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco come to mind as well. So we get pumped just coming to New Orleans.

Stream SCI's 1997 Maple Leaf Show with 2019 featured guest Anders Osborne here:

One last question and it might be the big unanswerable, but what’s next for the band after this anniversary run?

Keith: More of the same in a way. We’re going to hit it hard this year. There’s still some unannounced shows on the horizon for the remainder of the calendar year we’ll bust out soon. We look forward to getting out some unreleased music we’ve been working on in the Lab and a few more tracks that are going to trickle out and perhaps package that as an album. We’re on a great path as far as recording and creating music, and playing some great destination venues. We’ll look forward to more of that.

Great. I appreciate the time, Keith. It’s impossible to overstate how important the band’s music has been for me. It truly changed the trajectory of my life.

Keith: Thanks so much. It’s happened that way for a lot of people. It’s been a huge influence on all of us, too. We’ve all met our best friends, wives, and all kinds of people through this community. Thanks for being a part of it. We appreciate you.

Ready for Festival Season: Catching up with SunSquabi April 28, 2019 18:51

Photo by Chester Pink
Spring time is without a doubt one of the most exciting, critical times of the year for any nationally touring act. Festival season is shifting into full gear, and countless artists are preparing to take the stage in the hopes of blowing the minds of their loyal fans and, hopefully, picking up some new followers along the wayJust over a week ago, many of my favorite acts gathered at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park for the annual SweetWater 420 Festival. This year's lineup was as impressive and diverse as ever, and honestly, I'm still trying to digest everything that went down.
After several years of listening and watching from afar, I finally had a chance to catch one of my favorite electronic funk acts: SunSquabi. We actually sat down to discuss their latest tour, the new album (Instinct), festival season, and much more prior to their set. See below for the full conversation with Kevin Donohue (guitar/keys/production),  Josh Fairman (bass), and Chris Anderson (drums) and make sure to keep an eye out for these guys this summer!
You guys recently completed a big spring tour. Now you're here in Atlanta as you kick off festival season. How have things been going overall? Any highlights? 
Kevin: It's really been phenomenal, since all the way back to October. We've been traveling to different parts of the southeast. All up and down the northeast and over to the west coast. It's tough to say what the highlights would be. It's been a very consistent and strong tour all the way through. 
Josh: We played our first show in DC. It was a packed, sold out show, which was really cool. 
Chris: In Boston, we got to play with my little brother on violin. That was a big highlight for me. It's pretty special to get to play with family. 
Kevin: It was great getting back out to Seattle and northern California. We hadn't been up that way in about two years, so it was great seeing all of the fans in that area. We played Los Angeles for the first time: sold out. We played San Diego for the first time: sold out. It's crazy to see the growth and love. 
Josh: It was the best tour we've ever had. For sure. 
That's amazing. Keep that momentum rolling right into festival season. So you released a new album, Instinct, earlier this year. How was this recording experience different from those in the past?
Kevin: I think the meat of it is really cool. We did a lot more live recording, which gives it a really unique sound. All three of us were able to play in the studio together and feed off of the improvisation we came up with on tour. These ideas would evolve night by night. We were able to come home and live record these ideas instead of writing them from scratch, which we had done more of in the past. A few of the songs still developed that way, but the meat of it had a really fresh feel to it. 
Josh: It's also the first full length record that I've played on.
Kevin: That's right. First full length with Josh. A lot more analog synths. Been doing a lot of production techniques that we're just learning this year. Using less mics and taking a more minimalistic approach with the electronic sounds as well. Just using what you need to get the juice out of certain sounds that you want. 
Chris: We did a lot of songs that came to us through improvisation. Everything evolved from there. We got a lot out of the entire process. It was a really fun recording experience. 
From what I've heard, one of the next things we can expect is a remix on a Lettuce tune. Is that something you can elaborate on?
Kevin: Absolutely. It will be released as soon as we complete the finishing touches. We have some killer artwork that Mike Tallman did for us. I'm expecting that it will be released during mid to late May. We've been working on it for about a year and a half. We got the samples from Adam Dietch (drummer from Lettuce) a while back. He's a really good friend of ours in Denver. 
It's been one of those things where you're chipping away at this project for a while. It was essentially finished about a year ago. They asked us to hold off until the entire LP remix was finished. We decided we would play it live and keep making it doper. We've continued to add little things to it. It's a super crazy, psychedelic track. I think putting off the release was actually a blessing. It's given us another six months to refine it. 
Check out SunSquabi's "Night Moth" here:
It's funny how things work out sometimes. Which Lettuce track is this again?
Kevin: It's called "The Love You Left Behind." It's got these great female vocals in it and a lot of great guitar playing.
Josh: Lettuce is collectively one of our favorite bands. They're definitely an inspiration to us. 
Kevin: Working with them directly was pretty special. Hopefully we'll be able to play some more shows with those guys in the future. 
That would make for a hell of a pairing. There wouldn't be a dull moment on a Lettuce / SunSquabi bill. 
Kevin: We like to think so too. (laughs).
Getting back to the topic of festival season. You guys are playing Bonnaroo this year. That's obviously a big deal. Camp Bisco and Summer Camp are also coming up. 
Kevin: We're stoked to play three sets at Summer Camp this year. 
Chris: There's also Disc Jam up in New York. 
Kevin: I'm really excited about getting back to Summer Camp. I think we were there for six years in a row. Last year, we did Electric Forest instead, which was awesome. Summer Camp brings together a lot of our closest friends. 
Chris: It was one of the first festivals we ever played back in...2012?
Kevin: There's a little bit of a different feel with not playing there last year. We're coming back this time around, and we get to play three sets. 
Josh: I'm also really excited for ARISE Music Festival. It's basically the highest we've ever been billed on a festival. It's right at home in Colorado, so that's our big summer play for the hometown people. 
Chris: We're playing The Werk Out Festival in Ohio. That's gonna be a really fun one. There are a couple more announcements coming as well. 
Well you've obviously got two big sets coming up this evening. First, you get to play a prime time set this evening here at SweetWater 420 Festival. Then you're heading over to Aisle 5 for an afterparty that's been sold out for weeks. How do you formulate the setlists on a day like today. What's the strategy with the festival set versus the late night set?
Kevin: Honestly, it's different every single time. We've had a pretty crazy 24 hours getting down here. We'll take this whirlwind of energy and channel it directly into the music. Take that energy and turn it into something constructive for everyone. I think we're gonna play pretty loud, fast, and hardcore today. We're a little pissed off (laughs). You know what I mean? We will probably write the setlist shortly after we finish this interview. 
For the late night set, we won't really worry about that until we get there. We're gonna play what we want to play today. No repeats ever, obviously. Even though, it's a much smaller club. There are going to be a lot more people here. We try not to let too many outside factors play into the set. Just play what we're feeling at the moment. That feels like the most genuine approach, when you're put on a platform of a festival. Be yourself.
Josh: With the late nights, we tend to have more sit-ins and experimental jams.
Are there any confirmed guests for the Aisle 5 show tonight? 
Kevin: We've talked to a few people. [Michael] Menert is in town, so I think he's gonna stop by and do some free styling. We've been doing that with him for years. It's crazy. The late nights are always fun. We tend to get pretty loose. We've been looking forward to this day for a while now.
Check out a few shots from SunSquabi at 420 Fest via Ryan Lewis: